Congratulations to Harvey Rosenthal and our colleagues at NYAPRS for a
wonderful advocacy day yesterday. Over 600 peers, providers and family
members from around New York State came to advocate on behalf of several
significant issues including housing, criminal justice and workforce.

Workforce is the top priority of MHANYS this year. The article listed
below from yesterday highlights the need for funding for both the mental
health sector and the developmental disabilities sector. The Association
for Community Living is holding their Legislative Day today and are sending
out the same strong message. MHANYS has our Mental Health Matters Day next
Wednesday and we will be strongly echoing the call for workforce funding.
To register for the MHANYS ‘Mental Health Matters’ Legislative Day, to go

Families of Developmentally Disabled Seek More Funding For Caregivers 

By Karen DeWitt February 28, 2017

Just one month before the state budget is due, numerous interest groups are
converging on the State Capitol, asking that they be included in the budget.

Among the more impassioned efforts is one from developmentally disabled
people and their caregivers. They are seeking $45 million in state
subsidies to pay workers more money to comply with the rising minimum wage
in New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature last year phased in an increase that
will eventually lead to a $15 hourly wage in New York City and a $12.50
wage upstate.

Former Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, who has a son with severe development
disabilities, said the money is “loose change” in a $160 billion state
budget. He said worker shortages with vacancy rates as high as 20 percent
at some facilities have led to employees working overtime while not earning
enough to live decently themselves.

“They can’t pay their bills, they qualify for food stamps, there’s
something wrong,” Weisenberg said. “The state has an obligation and a
responsibility to pay these people a living wage.”

He said the overstressed and underpaid workers could lead to inadequate
care for the patients, and a return to the bad old days of neglect of the
disabled. Weisenberg has said his own son, Ricky, was abused by a worker at
a care center on Long Island, and he filed a lawsuit.

“We’ll have more neglect and abuse,” Weisenberg predicted. “More deaths.
And we can’t let this happen.”

Under the state’s laws, wages for fast-food workers are rising at a more
rapid pace than those for the rest of the work force. Currently, the
minimum pay for fast-food workers is $12 an hour in New York City and
$10.75 in the rest of the state. For all other workers, it’s lower: between
$10.50 and $11 an hour in New York City and $10 an hour in the rest of the

Glenn Liebman with the Mental Health Association said the disparity has
resulted in some adverse consequences. He said agencies that provide
services to the mentally ill also are suffering staffing shortages, as
workers go to McDonald’s to seek better pay with fewer responsibilities.

“If you’re McDonald’s, you can raise McNuggets by a quarter to help pay
for the cost of a minimum wage increase,” Liebman said. “We can’t charge
people more money.”

Groups representing the mentally ill also want $28 million more for
residential housing for people with chronic mental illness. They also
complain of chronic worker shortages in the group homes. Cuomo has proposed
$10 million, but Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York
Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, said a total of $38
million is needed.

“It’s a rounding error for this budget, but it will save our housing,”
Rosenthal said.

They hope the money will be included in the Assembly and Senate budget
plans, which are due out later in March, and the groups’ requests will be
part of the larger budget negotiations.

They have support among Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature,
including GOP Sen. Jim Tedisco, who had a brother with developmental
disabilities. He said his brother sometimes became upset and disoriented
because of the rapid turnover of his caregivers.

“I, my colleagues up here, will not leave this budget session that does not
have that funding in there,” said Tedisco, who pledged to use “every ounce
of strength to get it done.”

Cuomo, speaking at a Cabinet meeting, did not directly address the issue,
but said he sees few sticking points between himself and the Legislature in
the upcoming budget negotiations….

…Meanwhile, the Senate GOP and its ruling coalition partners, the breakaway
Independent Democratic Conference, issued their annual report on state
revenues. They say there is actually a half-billion more coming for next
year than the governor originally estimated.

(NYAPRS: yesterday the State Assembly estimated that there was another $1
billion in available spending)

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