MHANYS is very appreciative of the signing of the 988 legislation by Governor Hochul and the strong leadership of the Legislature particularly Senator Brouk and Assemblymember Gunther.

This will create a strong framework for implementation of 988 in July 2022. Now that the legislation has been passed, we must make sure that our crisis service system is appropriately funded. We urge additional funding in the upcoming budget for 988 implementation. Without robust funding, we have concerns that a 988 role out will not fully touch the countless New Yorkers in need during a mental health or substance use crisis.

Thanks to our colleagues Harvey Rosenthal at NYAPRS and Matt Shapiro at NAMI for helping to lead the advocacy charge on this important issue.

N E W S R E L E A S E

Advocates Laud Agreement by Governor Hochul and Legislative Leaders To Create a New 9-8-8 Crisis Response System While Stressing the Need for Funding

December 23, 2021

Contact: Matthew Shapiro, NAMI, 518-542-3437 Harvey Rosenthal, NYAPRS 518-527-0564

A broad cross-section of more than a hundred mental health, substance-use, health, criminal justice and children’s advocates along with healthcare providers, legal rights advocates and faith leaders thanked and congratulated Governor Hochul for signing legislation in law today that authorizes the creation of a 9-8-8 call- system to replace 9-1-1 as the appropriate number to use for someone in a mental health crisis. They also expressed great gratitude for the work of legislative leaders in crafting and negotiating the legislation.

The agreement is the first step towards a fully developed implementation system and the identification of adequate funding to launch the landmark program.

While advocates celebrated that New York has advanced the 9-8-8 initiative, they implore Governor Hochul and legislative leaders as they continue to negotiate 9-8-8’s implementation in the upcoming 2022 session that they include the following elements advocates agree to be necessary to 9-8-8’s success in New York State.

To be successful and truly aid those it intends to help, then 9-8-8 must be appropriately funded (and sustained) in order to provide 24 hour statewide coverage, seven days a week with all the services offered in-state with the ability to provide local resources and done in a linguistically and culturally competent manner. There must also be funding to accommodate an appropriate workforce to create the necessary capacity to meet this need.

Additionally, funding must be available to educate the public on the difference between 9-8-8 and 9-1-1, finally, advocates want to ensure the New York State Office of Mental Health oversees 9-8-8’s operations.

Last year, the FCC adopted regulations to designate “988” as the 3-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and to provide rapid access to suicide prevention and mental health crisis services. The 988 number will become “live” on July 16, 2022.

In the meantime, states are now attempting to build the 24/7/ infrastructure and the needed crisis response services to appropriately respond to what likely will be a substantial volume of crisis calls. Call centers will be needed in New York, as well as additional crisis teams or other trained individuals to respond to calls.

The advocates emphasized the impact the new 9-8-8 system will have on redirecting New Yorkers in distress from the criminal justice system and towards a life in recovery in the community.

“The criminalization of mental illness is one of the leading social justice issues of our time. New York’s jails and prisons are disproportionately populated by people living with a mental illness who deserved an approach focused on treatment and recovery, not punishment,” said Wendy Burch, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-NYS.

“It is estimated that more than 60% of New York’s incarcerated population have a diagnosable mental health and/or addiction related condition,” said Harvey Rosenthal, CEO of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. “This is especially true in communities of color, which are far less likely to have access to mental health care and far more likely to have a negative interaction with law enforcement.”

The agreement provides the Governor and Legislative leaders with the opportunity to further shape New York’s 988 system and, of critical importance, provide the adequate funding to ensure the program is properly implemented.

“We are extremely grateful to Governor Hochul and the Legislature for taking this crucial step together towards authorizing the 9-8-8 system and providing New York with this historic opportunity to create a mental health response to a mental health crisis,” said Matthew Shapiro, Associate Director of Public Affairs for NAMI-NYS.

“But we cannot achieve the promise of this landmark step forward if sufficient funding is not included in the upcoming 2022-23 budget,” said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in NYS.

“Great thanks are due to work of our legislative mental health committee chairs Senator Samra Brouk and Assembly Member Aileen Gunther in helping to
shape the bill and for their efforts to work with the Hochul administration to see that appropriate funding is included in the 2022-23 state budget,” said Rosenthal.

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