Close to a hundred different peers, family members, provider, counties and advocates spoke during the four public forums in regard to the Creation of the Office of Behavioral Health. What was impressive was that virtually everyone came in with their own level of expertise around the creation of the agency. While there was universal agreement around a ‘no wrong door approach’, the issue is always how do we get there. The streamlining of regulations, payment methodologies, licensure, outcome measures, quality indicators and agency cultures will all be challenging but the sense of most people that spoke was that it is an important goal that a new agency may be better able to tackle.  Also the hope is that this new agency will have a larger and more robust internal voice.

Of great concern to us is about the savings that the State will accrue from the combining of agency resources. There will likely be savings through efficiencies around administration and program. Our advocacy position is that any money saved by the State in the Creation of the Office of Behavioral Health must be reinvested back into community behavioral health services.  In an era of 20% withholds and COVID related behavioral health increases, the idea of leaving money on the table for the State’s general fund would be  against the best interest of our entire sector.  We will advocate that there be language in any bill moving forward to include the provision around keeping all funding in the behavioral health community

We are appreciative that Commissioners Sullivan and Gonzalez-Sanchez have created this open dialogue and we look forward to future discussions.

MHANYS testimony is listed below

 

Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.

Testimony on

Creation of the Office of Behavioral Health

November 2, 2020

Glenn Liebman, CEO

 

I very much appreciate this opportunity to speak in regard to the development of a New York State Office of Behavioral Health.

My name is Glenn Liebman and I am the CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State, MHANYS. We are an organization comprised of 26 affiliates in 52 counties throughout New York State. Many of our members provide community based services. Whether or not they provide services, all our members are mission driven and are bonded by our joint advocacy, education and training efforts.

In my other capacity, I serve as the new chair of the Behavioral Health Advisory Council and we look forward to having a significant role in implementation through the Council as well.

Certainly the movement to bring together both OMH and OASAS into a new agency is not new. There have been various iterations of this proposal for over twenty years.

The way this is being rolled out appears to be planful and hopefully will be reflective of the concerns among stakeholders. Traditional issues among agencies will undoubtedly be part of the discussion—licensure, regulations, administration, billing, outcome measures, IT issues and of course different agency cultures.

There will also be a great deal of program discussion about individuals with co-occurring needs but also with others that may have a specific mental health issue or a specific substance use issue. At the end of the day, I think we will agree that there is No Wrong Door to Care and everyone deserves a plan of care and services that reflect their individual needs. Getting there is the hard part and provider education and outreach are integral to future success. Please continue to recognize the key roles we play in the success of integrated services.

Right now thought, our major focus is on the funding. In an environment of twenty percent withholds that could possibly turn into cuts, we need every precious dollar to stay in our behavioral health community.

There will be a cost savings when these two agencies integrate with each other. Will there be transparency in the savings? Most importantly will there be a commitment from New York State that every penny saved through this integration will be allocated for community behavioral health services.

A worst case scenario is to siphon off the savings from this integration for the State’s general fund and not for community behavioral health services.

We are clearly in great need of funding for our community especially during the Pandemic. As this legislation is written, we need to make sure that language reflects this saving.

I wear this hat like many people as an advocate but also like many people I proudly wear this hat as a family member. The changes that will be made will impact real people and real lives.  I know with the current leadership, this will not be looked at just as a lens to insure efficiencies, but one that will reflect innovation, peer support, family engagement, prevention and robust funding that will positively impact the life of my son and the many other family members with addiction and mental health issues.

We look forward to further discussion.

Thank you.

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