Bill Gettman, the Executive Director of St. Catherine’s Center for
Children in Albany and a MHANYS Board Member, had an excellent op-ed in
yesterday’s Buffalo News on the recent report that came out in the wake of
the shocking 2014 closure of FEGS. As Bill states in the op-ed, “Over the
past 40 years, government has transferred an increasing number of support
functions to the more efficient and nimble non-profit sector in order to
save on cost.” 

From an MHA perspective, now more than ever we are facing the perfect
storm in the behavioral non-profit world. Limited increases in community
support over the last decade combined with few resources for Medicaid
Managed Care transition will have great impact in the ability to provide
the nimble ,innovative and cost savings services that have been the
hallmark of our members and other not for profits.

What we need is a level playing field in which we are resourced in an
equivalent way as the State operated programs and larger institutional
settings. When dealing with a vulnerable population, it should not be about
a competition for dollars, it should be about everyone working together for
the common good and that common good could be best realized when there is
equitable funding and buy-in at all levels.

Another Voice: Reform is needed now for state’s nonprofit sector

By William T. Gettman Jr.

In late 2014, the New York City social services mega-agency FEGS
(Federation Employment and Guidance Service) suddenly closed, to the dismay
of funders, service recipients, staff and investors. How could the failure
of a $250-million social service agency occur overnight?

A distinguished panel of experts has released a thoughtful, balanced and
practical report on how the not-for-profit sector and its government
partners need to change, innovate and improve governance.

“New York Nonprofits in the Aftermath of FEGS: A Call to Action,”
identifies chronic problems and offers solutions for strengthening the
nonprofit human services sector.

Bluntly stated is the fact that over the past 40 years, government has
transferred an increasing number of support functions to the more efficient
and nimble nonprofit sector in order to save on costs. The work includes
functions like providing out-of-home care and safety for vulnerable
children, operating early childhood education and after-school programs,
running food pantries, providing mental health counseling, sheltering
people experiencing homelessness and caring for the elderly.

While transferring the important direct care and safety net support for
hundreds of thousands of recipients, the operating environment makes
fiscal, program and community viability extraordinarily difficult for the
state’s nonprofit providers. The states and local governments do not pay
full costs, and their payment schedules and rules are erratic, which can
cause a number of problems having to do with lack of liquidity,
unreasonable fundraising burdens and underpaid staff. All of these issues
result in low performance and diminished quality of service.

The report identifies three major problems and makes a series of
recommendations designed to work together to strengthen the nonprofit human
services sector.

First, many programs are designed without soliciting valuable feedback and
expertise from the nonprofits that are responsible for implementing them,
resulting in ineffective and unworkable programs. Second, government should
collaborate with the sector in program design, to ensure that the sector is
prepared to make the shift to Medicaid Managed Care – a major shift in how
services are designed and delivered. Third, we need to reduce unnecessary
regulations that impede the partnership between nonprofits and government.
At the same time, we need to recognize legitimate cost structure and needs
and promote efficient operations.

Nonprofit human services organizations play a critical and long-standing
role in building and supporting the wellbeing of New Yorkers. The time for
state, local and private action is now.

William T. Gettman Jr. is executive director of St. Catherine’s Center for
Children in Albany.

(518) 453-6700

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