Despite an extraordinary time in Albany, the wheels of government and advocacy continue. Yesterday, we sent out a letter to the leadership of the Governor’s Office, the Division of the Budget, the Office of Mental Health and the Department of Health urging them to maximize the $16.7 million from FMAP dedicated to the mental health workforce. Leveraging this money through the health plans can provide over $33 million dollars. This money can be utilized as a one-time funding increase of 2.5% to the
mental health workforce. Details are embedded in the letter.

We will be on Capitol Pressroom next week discussing in greater detail.

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August 10th, 2021

On July 8th, the New York State Department of Health submitted 43 initial spending plans to CMS. Of greatest importance to the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS) is the proposal to add $16.7 million to the mental health workforce through hiring and signing bonuses, longevity payments, differential pay, expanded retirement contributions and tuition reimbursement.

We very much support this proposal and also support being able to leverage Federal Medicaid by working through New York State’s health plans. This will help convert $16.7 million dollars into over $33 million.

We strongly believe that the sector is desperately in need of this funding. An already underfunded mental health workforce has faced even greater capacity issues given the impact of COVID to our workforce.

Agencies are barely able to continue their mission driven work when much of the workforce is being paid minimum wage. Most people chose this career path because of their belief in helping people, but to keep them in the field we’re going to have to do much better with salary levels that meet their costs and expectations.

The recent COLA helps and is greatly appreciated but one percent increase does not by itself move the needle. Annual increases based on the current COLA law which is based on the CPI is essential.

Another huge help would be the ability to give a bonus payment to the existing mental health workforce. This $33 million increase can leverage to provide a 2.5% one-time bonus to our mental health workforce.

This ‘peanut butter’ spread approach will help provide flexibility to provider agencies to utilize the funding as prescribed in the proposed CMS language through bonuses, retention, longevity payments, expanded retirement funding, tuition reimbursements, etc.

What is needed in return is clear and specific State direction to the plans that they are to pass through this funding—an across the board one-time 2.5% increase to licensed mental health agencies.

This is a win for all New Yorkers. The State can provide a prompt and necessary payment to the workforce, provider agencies will appreciate the recognition of the bonus and longevity payments for their staffs and most importantly the staff will continue to do the mission driven work of helping to keep individuals with mental health issues safe and in the movement towards recovery in the community.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Glenn Liebman, CEO
Mental Health Association in NYS

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