MHANYS recently submitted our comments to OMH regarding the Annual
Statewide Comprehensive Plan. Our comments are listed below.

Glenn

Statewide Comprehensive Plan Testimony 

New York State Office of Mental Health November 2017

Testimony Submitted by Glenn Liebman, CEO MHANYS

We would like to thank Commissioner Sullivan and the staff of the Office of
Mental Health (OMH) for holding the annual Statewide Comprehensive Plan
Meeting and listening to the concerns of MHANYS and many of our community
advocacy colleagues.

Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS) is comprised of
26 affiliates in 52 counties across New York State. Many of our members
(MHAs) provide community-based mental health services. Whether the members
provide services or not, all the MHAs are focused on community engagement
and recovery through training, advocacy, and education. We are a
mission-driven organization and whether you are talking about a large MHA
member or a small MHA with all volunteers, all are dedicated to individual
recovery, family engagement, and reduction in stigma in communities across
New York State.

At the State level, MHANYS is involved in many issues that impact New
Yorkers both in the Public Mental Health System and in the larger general
population. There are several issues of which we are involved. Today we are
highlighting a few of the key issues in New York’s Mental Health System.

Workforce
We thank Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for their support of
direct care staff in behavioral health. We know that you have been strong
supporters of this increase and we thank you as well for your assistance in
implementation. A 3.25 percent increase for direct care workers in January
1, combined with another 3.25 percent increase on April 1 and a clinical
staff increase of 3.25 percent is greatly appreciated. This is a strong
recognition of the work of direct care and clinical staff.

Everyone in this room and across the State knows about the underfunding of
our workforce. They are among the most dedicated, selfless, and
hardest-working employees in New York, yet for too many years there have
been virtually no increases in their salaries. Last year was a great first
step but we all know it is not enough.

We stand with our colleagues in the BFair2DirectCare Campaign in calling
for continued funding for the direct care workforce. Also, MHANYS stands in
strong support of increased funding across the board for not only direct
care staff and clinical staff, but for the entire staff of community-based
mental health organizations. While the increase impacted a lot of worthy
individuals, it did not go far enough in funding the entire staffs of
community organizations. An across the board rate enhancement would help
provide the necessary funding to keep community-based providers on par with
State-operated programs and private sector agencies.

Recommendation:

New York must continue its commitment to retain and recruit a quality
not-for-profit behavioral health workforce with additional funding and
support.

Medicaid Managed Care and Community Reinvestment
Last year at the OMH budget briefing, MHANYS brought up the idea of
utilizing unspent funding from the DSRIP waiver (that was the platform for
HCBS Services funding) to help provide funding for community support for
HCBS Designated Providers. To the great credit of the Office of Mental
Health and Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson, instead of putting this issue
aside, it was embraced it through enhanced public policy discussions.

We laid out our concerns about the potential of the State losing hundreds
of millions of dollars in waiver funding because of the small number of
individuals taking advantage of HCBS Services to date. Recent proposals by
the State to create HCBS Infrastructure Development and Quality Incentive
Pools in collaboration between the Plans and the Community Based
Organizations will be helpful in responding to the concerns that have been
voiced by those of us in the community.

We look forward to working with OMH, OASAS and the Department of Health
(DOH) around solutions to the small number of individuals in HARP services.
We have long maintained that an individual’s recovery is only enhanced when
they have services such as peer engagement, family support, and supported
education and employment as part of their plan of care. We will work with
the State to provide some funding proposals around training, workforce,
infrastructure, and collaborative efforts designed to provide individuals
with greater access to important and vital recovery services.

In addition, we will continue to work to enhance the role of family
engagement in HARPS; very few people are engaged in family support which
greatly impacts recovery. There should be more recognition of this
important initiative.

Recommendation:

We laid out our vision for the future of Medicaid Managed Care engagement
through our recent member survey that we shared with OMH. We urge your
support of the recommendations.

Mental Health Literacy

Over the last several years, MHANYS and its members have been involved in
long-term strategies to combat stigma and support mental health prevention
and education. There is a three-legged stool approach to enhancing literacy

First Leg: Education
Last year’s landmark Mental Health Education Bill has provided a great
opportunity to enhance the significant link between mental health and
schools. For many years, OMH has been working closely with school districts
in a myriad of ways. This recent change in the law creates even greater
opportunities for both the State Education Department (SED) and OMH to
collaborate in support of enhancing mental health education for school-aged
children.

MHANYS has been working closely with SED in the creation of a mental health
advisory panel to help develop curriculum. We are pleased that OMH is part
of the group as are several of our fellow advocates.

Recommendations:

We continue to support additional funding for school-based mental health
services and to support greater opportunities for teachers to receive
mental health training as part of the certification process.

We urge OMH to support funding and continued collaboration around mental
health education in schools.

Second Leg: Anti Stigma Efforts
Over the last several years, with the support of OMH, MHANYS has helped lead
the charge for changing perceptions about mental health issues through
anti-stigma work. Over the last few years, there have been several bills signed
into law that have been a priority to MHANYS. The first one creates an
anti-stigma fund through income tax contribution in tax check-offs. The second
one is around mental health education that was just referenced. The third one
this year was the signing by the Governor of a mental health anti-stigma
license plate bill. All are landmarks and are making New York the first State in
the country to have all three of these significant pieces of legislation passed
and signed into law.

None of this would have been possible without the strong leadership of our
Mental Hygiene Chairs – Aileen Gunther in the Assembly and Robert Ortt in
the Senate. Also, we are very appreciative of Governor Cuomo for signing
these important pieces of legislation into law.

We are also very supportive of the role of the Governor and OMH in the
creation of New York’s Suicide Prevention Plan, ‘1700 Too Many.’ This has
been a real public policy effort to reduce suicide completions in New York.
We are very pleased that the Governor has created a Suicide Prevention Task
Force that continues to reflect all of our concerns regarding the reduction
of suicide attempts and suicide completions.

Third Leg: Training
The third leg is training of the community about mental health through
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). We thank Commissioner Sullivan for her
strong support of training and recognizing the impact that MHFA has to
communities across the State. We also appreciate the opportunity to work
with the OMH Bureau of Forensics to help train law enforcement officials
about MHFA. MHFA is an eight-hour training designed to provide tools to
individuals to help them respond to someone in a mental health crisis and
to encourage people who are experiencing the symptoms of mental illness to
get help. More than that, MHFA serves as a tool in educating the
public about mental health literacy and the misconceptions about mental
illness that we are hearing about way too frequently in the public
discourse.

MHANYS’ MHAs have over one hundred trained individuals across New York
State who are capable of providing MHFA trainings.

Recommendations:

We are very appreciative of Commissioner Sullivan’s comments about
prevention, early intervention, wellness, and the workaround ACEs. We need
funding in this year’s state budget to enhance prevention and early
intervention.

Models such as Mental Health First Aid should be included in the State
budget. Funding for mental health initiatives in schools should also be a
priority regarding funding. We are concerned that without this funding,
some of these innovative prevention efforts will be diminished to the
detriment of both youth and adults across New York State.

Reinvestment, Housing, and Adult Homes

We cannot talk about recovery without mentioning housing. MHANYS
is a member of the Bring It Home Campaign, chaired by our colleagues
at ACL. For too many years, our members and colleagues who are
housing providers are costed out by our system of care. While the increase
in rates has been appreciated, it does not in any way keep up with the cost
of operationalizing the housing programs. Minimal rate increases have
resulted in long waiting lists and staff turnover. This greatly impacts
individuals who desperately need a place to live to help support their
recovery. Often the alternatives result in frequent emergency
room visits, homelessness, or incarceration.

Recommendation:

We urge support for increased funding for housing rates for Mental Health
Housing providers across New York State.

We also continue to be frustrated by issues around adult homes. For over
forty years this has been a public policy issue for many people with mental
health issues. Though there are good adult homes, there are many that
continue to provide minimal support and services for people living in poor
conditions. We need to dramatically increase the number of adult home
residents who transition to the community. The court settlement should no
longer be used as a fulcrum for discussion and debate; it should be used to
provide a solution that has impacted people with mental health issues for
too many years.

Recommendation:

Aggressively work with housing providers to insure that residents of adult
homes have greater options to live in the community.

We are very appreciative of how quickly OMH has gotten funding out to the
community for reinvestment dollars from State hospitals. There have been a
myriad of programs in the community that have been successfully funded
because of the new reinvestment stream. We must continue to have a
reinvestment funding stream in place for community mental health services

A system of community supports that reflects the panoply of services that
are available to an individual will be a strong step to their personal
recovery. Reinvestment funding is a tool for making this happen.

Recommendation:

Continue support for reinvestment dollars for beds that are being closed
in State hospitals.

Criminal Justice Reform

We are appreciative of the Governor’s Office, OMH, and DOH for their long
time support of the thirty day waiver for providing Medicaid to individuals
released from jails and prisons. It is unfortunate that we have not
received the federal support to have the waiver approved.

This thirty day period will insure that individuals are able to receive
Medicaid services upon discharge as well as links to HCBS Services. We
strongly support our fellow coalition members NYAPRS and the Legal Advocacy
Center in advocating for this waiver.

In addition, we are appreciative of the continued support for Crisis
Intervention Teams (CIT) from the New York State Senate and the Office of
Mental Health. New York used to lag behind other States in CIT funding; now
in recent years we are in the forefront in training police to work with
individuals and their families during a mental health crisis. Many of us
have witnessed firsthand the success of CIT in our own communities.

Recommendation

Until the waiver is approved, we urge support for the increased use of the
Medication Grant Card. This Card can help provide medication upon
release as well as services. We urge support for relooking at the Card
as a mechanism to help individuals in prisons and jails get access to
Medicaid services.

Medication Access

MHANYS continues to support the role of OMH and DOH in supporting
prescriber prevails for mental health medications and urges continued
support for prescriber prevails for all other medications for individuals
on Medicaid.

Final Comments

Last year MHANYS had the opportunity to provide both oral and written
testimony. Unfortunately, while we know OMH is very supportive of our
recommendations, there were several that were not referenced in last year’s
Statewide Comprehensive Plan. While Medicaid Managed Care, Housing, and
Workforce were all referenced, there was virtually no recognition of mental
health education in schools, initiatives around prevention and anti-stigma
and Mental Health First Aid. We urge both funding support and an increased
recognition of the issue through adding language in the Comprehensive Plan
as part of the State’s strategy in identifying priority areas.

Thank you.

Translate »