Excellent piece in the Albany Times Union from our friend and colleague Harvey Rosenthal about the impact to New York if there are cuts to mental health services. In a word, ‘devastation’
We will continue the drumbeat and work alongside our entire community to insure these draconian cuts do not occur especially when funding is most needed for behavioral health services.
NYAPRS Note: It is essential that Congress includes a major financial commitment to extremely hard pressed states and localities in the next COVID-19 relief package and that, in recognition of the essential role that behavioral health services are playing here in New York and nationally, that state Governors hold them harmless from consideration of cuts caused by any shortfalls in those funds. Great thanks are due to all of the NYAPRS member agencies who provided input to help inform the following Commentary piece in this morning’s Albany Times Union.
Cuts to Mental Health Providers Will Hurt People in Need
By Harvey Rosenthal Albany Times Union Commentary June 11, 2020
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings have been notable for his sensitivity to the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on New Yorkers’ mental health.
In a particularly inspiring moment, the governor shared the personal impact that the crisis is having on him, as part of a newly launched “How are You, Really?” campaign.
He shared his sadness about the incredible pain and loss New Yorkers are experiencing, his fears about the ever-changing course of the virus, his sadness about the impact on his family and his pride in the extraordinary contributions that New York’s front-line heroes make every day.
“The more openly we acknowledge our own mental health crisis the better we will all be,” he emphasized.
In that vein, we must candidly confront the societal mental health crisis that looms ahead, the one that experts are calling a “shadow pandemic” of emotional pain and trauma that will be with us for years to come
We’ll long be confronting the impact of months of nerve-wracking uncertainty and panic about where the virus has gone and whom it has infected, if not taken, as well as the deep sense of grief and loss of those who have lost parents, siblings and children.
Add the effect of months of isolation and fear, the shock and despair of those who have been stunned by an overnight loss of jobs and pay and the steady increases we are already seeing in incidents of suicides, overdoses and domestic violence
In recent months, too many suffered and far too many died because the help wasn’t there when they needed it the most, whether it be ventilators, PPE, testing and access to treatment.
Many more will suffer and be lost because critically needed mental health treatment and support and the staff to offer them won’t be there.
For far too long, community-based mental health agencies have struggled to keep up with rising needs of increasing numbers of people with more complex needs at the same time that they cannot maintain basic staffing levels due to the chronic turnover and job vacancies that come from salaries that are not competitive with the local Burger King.
Yet Congress continues to deny and delay COVID-19-related relief to states that fund these core programs and are, as a result, considering deep cuts to essential, front-line services. Over the past few weeks, a number of local providers here in New York have been told to prepare for cuts of 20% or more
How are they doing … really? Here’s what we found out from a poll of a number of community mental health service providers.
The lead for a small agency in the lower Hudson Valley was tearful: “Our staff has been so resilient and creative in the midst of the COVID crisis and the best I can do is repay them with pink slips.”
A downstate agency director was frightened: “With cuts of this magnitude, we’ll no longer be able to assist hundreds of people who call on us every day due to behavioral health crises, hunger, homelessness and sexual assault.”
And a director of a key Southern Tier agency was angry: “At a time when the need for mental health services and support are at a record high, we need additional funds to meet the needs, not be placed in positions of fiscal insolvency.”
Congress must rise above the politics and immediately approve funding to the states over the next few weeks. Governor Cuomo must ensure that essential front-line behavioral health agencies are exempted from any cuts and, instead, offer some strategic increases to ensure that this time around, help is available when New Yorkers need it the most.
Harvey Rosenthal is the chief executive officer of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.
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