With only a week left to the probable passage of the budget, an
unprecedented number of behavioral health advocacy groups from across the
State are advocating for funding support for the workforce.

These dedicated men and women work long hours working with individuals who
are often vulnerable and in great need. Many of these individuals are peers
themselves who have a great understanding of the importance of a caring and
compassionate staff. For many years, there has been little attention paid
to this workforce, but this narrative is dramatically changing. Through the
efforts of families, peers and providers across New York State and a
supportive Legislature and Executive, our voices are being heard. We can’t
stop now though. Please continue to call your legislators in support of
funding for the behavioral health workforce. 

Behavioral Health Advocates Press Albany to Address the Community Care Crisis

March 21, 2017

Contact: Harvey Rosenthal 518-527-0564 Glenn Liebman 518-360-7916
John Coppola 518-441-0985

Representatives of 11 leading state behavioral health advocacy groups have
joined together to urge state legislators and the Cuomo Administration to
address the crisis in community service systems that they say are
jeopardizing the health of adults and children with disabilities,
addictions and emotional disturbances.

The groups are pressing policy makers to fund a meaningful workforce
increase and a long deferred cost of living adjustment that are critical to
addressing up to 75% staff turnover rates and 40% job vacancy rates,
leaving agencies on the brink of closing.

“For years we’ve been hemorrhaging staff due to increasing operational
costs and competition from other areas of the economy that can offer our
staff better wages and benefits,” said Lauri Cole, Executive Director of
the NYS Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

“Despite their extraordinary dedication and tireless efforts, our workforce
is dramatically underpaid.” said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health
Association in New York State. “We urge the Legislature and the Governor to
provide the necessary funding to retain and recruit the quality staff that
will help provide support to New Yorkers in greatest need and to allow us
to keep up with steadily rising costs.”

The advocates believe that the Senate, the Assembly and the Governor are
exploring ways to extend funding to services funded by the Office of Mental
Health and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services as they
have agreed to do for agencies associated with the Office for People with
Developmental Disabilities.

“We are grateful that in each of the budget bills there has been some
expression of support for our workers and the programs to which they
dedicate their lives,” Christy Parque, CEO of The Coalition for Behavioral
Health. “However, what we are asking for is a comprehensive commitment from
the Governor and Legislature to the front line human services workforce and
our hard-pressed community agencies.”

The funding crisis has had a direct effect on the lives of people with
behavioral health conditions and their families

“Trust in the staff who worked in my housing program was essential to
starting my own personal process of healing when I was a child,” said
Tiffany Monti, of the New York Association of Psychiatric Services board.
“I really needed a sense of consistency and reliability among the staff to
help me to develop a sense of safety and stability.”

“High staff turnover results in caregivers who are not as familiar with our
loved ones and who will be less apt to recognize the earliest signs needed
for immediate intervention, leading to their hospitalization or other
negative outcomes, said Wendy Burch, Executive Director, NAMI-NYS.

“Families of children with behavioral health issues need to feel confident
that there is a quality workforce in each of our service systems,” said
Paige Pierce, CEO, Families Together in NYS

The community care crisis is being felt in every locality across the state
and across the spectrum of New Yorkers with the greatest needs.

“The shrinking direct care workforce is an issue in every county, and
across all three disability agencies, mental health, substance use disorder
and developmental disabilities,” said Kelly Hansen of the NYS Conference of
Local Mental Hygiene Directors.

“Dedicated staff in substance use disorders prevention, treatment, and
recovery programs are tirelessly working to address an epidemic of heroin
and prescription opioid overdose and addiction. While demand for these
services is rising, programs are losing staff because of low wages and
inadequate benefits,” said John Coppola, Executive Director of the New York
Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers.

Housing agencies that must provide around the clock care are especially
vulnerable.

“Community based housing providers that operate OMH residential programs
need substantive state increases to properly and fairly implement minimum
wage hikes – and they need it now,” said Toni Lasicki, CEO of the
Association for Community Living.

“The Supportive Housing Network of New York calls on New York State to
provide substantial relief to chronically underfunded Office of Mental
Health programs that provide safe and supportive homes for 32,000 of our
fellow citizens,” said Laura Mascuch, Executive Director of the Supportive
Housing Network of New York.

“This is not politics for us,” concluded Andrea Smyth, Executive Director,
NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health. “This is about ensuring
that New York keeps its promise to support the most vulnerable children and
adults who will not have access to care because we cannot retain a
sufficient workforce and help providers to make up for a decade of deferred
cost of living adjustments.”

“We hope and expect state leaders will answer our call this year“, said
NYAPRS’ Harvey Rosenthal.

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