We are blessed in New York to have an incredible workforce in mental health, substance use and across the human service sector. The people doing the hard work every day, keeping people in great need thriving and out of institutions, requires a robust skill set. Unfortunately, this skill set has long been undercompensated. The people are in these fields largely because they are mission driven, but ‘mission driven’ does not pay the bills. We need to compensate the workforce and we need to provide enhanced services and supports for behavioral health as well.
A 5.4% COLA in the State budget for human services and $500 million in funding for behavioral health will begin to turn the tide and usher in an era of respect for our communities of need across New York State.
Governor Hochul has been very supportive of our sector but as we know the ‘rubber meets the road’ in the budget. We are hopeful that she and the Legislature will be our champion.
Listed below is a letter from Northern Rivers CEO and MHANYS Board Chair, Bill Gettman, laying out the impact of the underfunding of human service programs
Hochul must better fund human services in first budget
to the editor
Dec. 29, 2021Updated: Dec. 29, 2021 2:30 p.m.
In January, Gov. Kathy Hochul will submit her first executive budget. Simultaneously, countless human service programs, some within a short walking distance from her office in the state Capitol, will be feeling the brunt of the historic workforce shortage of frontline caregivers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed our statewide system of care past the breaking point, almost ensuring its failure and collapse unless New York takes immediate action.
Human services providers and front-line workers who provide 24/7 essential care to everyday New Yorkers who experience abuse, neglect, trauma, intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well myriad behavioral health issues, have been rewarded for surviving the pandemic with insufficient reimbursement rates and continued financial strife.
These highly trained professionals and caregivers perform physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging work. However, the long-term underfunding and lack of investment by New York to ensure the stability of care they provide has taken its toll.
It is critical that the budget prioritizes the needs of the communities we serve, our frontline workers, and the health of our state. Hochul needs to ensure that the 5.4 percent cost of living increase that was passed over a decade ago but rarely funded remains a clear key priority in her first budget.
Without such funding, those same programs, steps from the Capitol, will be forced to reduce services, add to growing wait lists, and shutter their doors. Hochul need only sign with her pen to ensure the health, safety, and continued care of New York’s most vulnerable.
CEO, Northern Rivers Family of Services
William T. Gettman, Jr.
Chief Executive Officer
Northern Rivers Family of Services
60 Academy Road | Albany, NY 12208