Behavioral health advocates are continuing our united advocacy around the impact of the 20% withhold to counties in this third quarter budget. Great job by new ACL Executive Director, Sebrina Barrett in pointing out the impact to housing agencies in New York State.
Supportive Housing Groups Say State Cuts Will Lead To Homelessness, Higher Costs
Crain’s Health Pulse July 14, 2020
As the state contends with financial strain from the Covid-19 crisis, housing advocates fear its 20% reduction of funding for community-based mental health services will lead to homelessness, negative care outcomes and increased costs in other areas
The Association for Community Living, whose member organizations provide supportive housing and rehabilitation services to more than 40,000 people with serious psychiatric disabilities statewide, argues the withheld funding will be devastating for providers that were already underfunded before the pandemic.
The reduction of funding affects supportive housing providers serving 7,300 individuals in the Hudson Valley as well as central and western New York. It equates to about $5.5 million this quarter and some $22 million should it extend for the entire year, Sebrina Barrett, executive director of the association, told Crain’s.
Barrett says the state has informed the association’s members that if federal relief for New York comes through later this summer, it will make the affected contracts whole. But the association is concerned the reduction of funding could extend beyond September and to providers in the city and on Long Island
“From our perspective, these withholds are unprecedented and unwise,” Barrett said. “Mental health housing saves lives, but it also saves money.”
The latter comes in the form of avoidable emergency department visits, homeless shelter stays and incarcerations
For now, Barrett said, supportive housing providers are having to weigh unimaginable decisions. They’re looking at whether to pay 80% of every client’s rent or select 20% of clients for whom they cannot pay rent at all.
Providers are also considering whether to lay off staff who have been on the front lines of the pandemic.
“If you don’t have a roof over your head, it’s very hard to maintain stability for other types of support services,” Barrett said of the clients the association’s members serve. “So much is needed for this population in order to keep them safe.”
That includes regular medication and care, particularly during the pandemic, she noted. People with mental illness are included in the higher risk group when it comes to Covid-19.
For the association’s members, it’s a perfect storm.
“You take a system that’s already collapsing due to a lack of funding, and then you add to that a pandemic and significant withholds,” Barrett said, “and you really put the system into a free fall.”
She said the association’s members are hopeful that federal relief will come through and help the state make their contracts whole, but they’re planning for the worst.
Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the state Division of the Budget, said in a statement provided to Crain’s: “There has been no permanent reduction in support for these services at this time. … Instead, the state is holding back a portion of payments as it contends with a cash crunch caused by a 14% drop in revenue due entirely to the pandemic and the federal decision to delay income tax payments by three months, and the state needs the federal government to deliver much-delayed funding to cover this revenue loss so that we can continue to provide support for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”
He added that in the interim the state has implemented a moratorium on evictions to protect individuals who cannot afford to pay their rent during the pandemic. —Jennifer Henderson
Mental Health Advocates Fear $5.5M Withholding Could Mean Cuts To Services
BY Amanda Fries Albany Times Union July 14, 2020
ALBANY — Community-based mental health provider advocates fear the state’s withholding of $5.5 million in funding could leave people with serious psychiatric disabilities homeless, and are calling on New York officials to adequately fund the programs.
Mental health providers in western and central New York as well as the Hudson Valley were notified in late June that 20 percent of the expected revenue to cover housing and rehabilitation services for people with severe mental health disabilities would be withheld by New York due to budget shortfalls from responding to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Association for Community Living.
The association, which represents nonprofit agencies that provide housing and rehabilitation services to more than 40,000 people diagnosed with serious and persistent psychiatric disabilities, said withholding funding is affecting payments for rent and critical services for 7,300 New Yorkers in those regions.
Providers in Long Island and New York City, who often have contracts directly with the state rather than through a county, have also been told state officials could clawback dispersed funding with a 30-day notice, association Executive Director Sebrina Barret said Monday. State budget officials disputed this claim, saying that contract withholdings have been taken across the board with no regional variation.
Barrett said the community-based programs provide stable housing and support for individuals at lower cost than other options. She said providers offer housing and services at a cost between $22 to $95 per day per individual. In a homeless shelter that cost would be about $130 per day per individual and upwards of $1,000 per day per individual at a hospital or jail.
“We help them be independent and stay in the community. It saves lives and it also saves the state money. So it’s not smart to withhold money for mental health housing,” she said. “This system was already facing significant budget shortfalls because of not keeping up with inflation.”
She said the withheld revenue could force providers to halt admissions, which could wind up sending the vulnerable population to hospitals or homeless shelters, which are more costly and would increase people’s exposure to COVID-19.
Barrett said people with severe and persistent mental illnesses are already at a disadvantage, dying 20 years earlier on average than the general population, and often having comorbidities that put them at a higher risk of severe illness and contracting COVID-19. The population has been disproportionately impacted with more than 40 percent of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 requiring hospitalization, she said, and more than 15 percent dying from underlying medical conditions.
As the economic fallout from responding to the pandemic has unfolded, New York elected leaders have warned that departments and programs could see deep cuts without federal funding flowing to state and local governments. Funds have already been withheld for scheduled raises for 80,000 state workers, new contracts and new hires have been frozen, and local aid to municipalities has also been withheld to address the multi-billion-dollar deficit New York faces.
Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the state’s budget office, said no permanent reductions have been made for the services.
“Instead, the state is holding back a portion of payments as it contends with a cash crunch caused by a 14 percent drop in revenue due entirely to the pandemic and the federal decision to delay income tax payments by three months,” Klopott said in an emailed statement. “The state needs the federal government to deliver much-delayed funding to cover this revenue loss so that we can continue to provide support for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”
Cameron Sagan, a spokesman for Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy, said the county expects to be made whole later in the year and will be able to front-load July payments to local providers to ensure nonprofits will not have to make cuts in the short term.
“This is critical funding that our service providers use to help those dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues every day, and we know that these nonprofits are already struggling financially,” Sagan said. “We understand the state is facing a budget crisis of their own in response to the COVID crisis, which is why we continue to look to Washington to do the right thing and send a direct aid package to states and smaller localities.”
Freeman pointed out a moratorium in effect protects New Yorkers from facing evictions through Aug. 19. The Legislature also passed – and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed – a bill protecting renters from evictions for nonpayment of rent during the pandemic.
Barrett said providers directly pay landlords and will have to decide whether to withhold all rent payments or pick and choose which will be paid. This leaves people who are mentally ill exposed to having to deal with the ramifications of missed rent by themselves, she said.
“You’re basically risking someone becoming homeless who has a severe mental illness in the middle of a public health crisis,” Barrett said. “That’s a perfect storm of a situation where you’re really putting lives at stake.”