Yesterday we witnessed a rare occurrence in Albany, the harnessing of the
power of State Government on a bipartisan basis to support the unsung
heroes who provide direct care to vulnerable New Yorkers on a daily basis.
Governor Cuomo and the Legislative Leaders from all sides of the aisle
came together and spoke at the rally of Direct Care Service Providers from
across New York State. More than just speaking, they made a strong
commitment to funding for this workforce.
It was a memorable moment and one that has been long in coming. Our
colleagues in the Development Disabilities field have done an incredible
job of raising awareness of the needs of direct care staff through their
BFair2DirectCare campaign. All of their great work cumulated in
Mental Health and Addiction Disorder advocates have been mounting our own
campaign recently to ensure that our workforce is included in this funding.
Many agencies in the MHA network and in other community agencies have
developmental disability programs, mental health and substance abuse
programs. All work hard, all work 24/7, all respond to crisis—it only makes
sense that this workforce would be looked on through the prism of a large
tent. Our voices were heard – the announced deal included all, not just
some, of the direct care workers across all disability groups in this
incredibly important investment which will raise the quality of care
provided, as well as rewarding staff for their service. Thanks to the
Governor and the Legislature for listening and responding.
As we know, words are cheap. Actual commitments are not cheap. Yesterday’s
workforce announcement is the largest funding commitment to the mental
hygiene workforce in many years. The way the funding breaks down in mental
health is that on January 1, 2018, all the direct care staff will receive a
3.25% funding increase. On April 1, 2018, the direct care workforce will
receive an additional 3.25% funding increase. In addition, on April 1,
2018, much of the clinical staff will receive a 3.25% funding increase.
In summary, over a two year period, the direct care staffs will receive a
6.5% funding increase while some clinical staff will receive a 3.25%
Advocacy Efforts to Continue
We are very appreciative of this commitment but we also know that this is
just the first step in a campaign to continue to raise awareness of the
workforce. The effectiveness of our campaign will not end—this is just
the beginning of our combined voices working for a full workforce
commitment in the years to come.
Along with our members at MHANYS, I would like to commend the other members
who have worked tirelessly recently in pursuit of a common workforce
agenda—NYAPRS, ACL, NAMI, Coalition for Behavioral Health, Conference of
Local Mental Hygiene Directors, NYASAP, Families Together, NYS Council of
Community Behavioral Healthcare, NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral
Health, NYSRA as well as our lobbyist Kevin Cleary. Also, most
importantly, the grassroots was a strong voice for support. Thousands of
phone calls were generated in support of funding increases for the
workforce. As we have always said, when our entire community speaks with
one voice, we can accomplish great things.
Thanks are in order
We also recognize that this is a real commitment of dollars from the State
and the Legislature. We are very appreciative of Governor Cuomo, Senate
Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, IDC Chair
Jeff Klein, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly
Minority Leader Brian Kolb. We also really want to acknowledge the great
work of our respective mental hygiene chairs, Senator Robert Ortt and
Assemblymember Aileen Gunther. They have spoken out in support of the
entire workforce and that is greatly appreciated. Also, what helps drive
the ship in the leadership is the hard working staffs who have shown their
own very passionate commitments to this funding.
Caveats, Caveats, Caveats,
Though it will be hard to back track from these commitment, please note
that the State Budget has not passed yet so this does not become official
till after Budget passage.
We also know that this is an important commitment, but we realize there has
been an erosion in our workforce over the years. The lesson of working
together and speaking with the same strong voice will help bolster our
advocacy on workforce in the future. This is not the end of a workforce
campaign, this is just the beginning. After we thank the leadership for
their strong commitment, we will continue to raise our voices in the future
in support of the workforce.
Glenn Liebman, CEO
Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.