We are very appreciative of Governor Cuomo providing a broad definition of essential employees during COVID—19 that includes behavioral health and human service agencies.
Listed below is a story from yesterday’s Spectrum News highlighting the importance of the mental health and human service workforce in playing a vital role in this pandemic.
Hazard Pay Sought For Those Who Work With Developmentally Disabled, Mental Health Fields
By Nick Reisman
PUBLISHED 5:06 PM ET APR. 27, 2020
By Nick Reisman City of Albany
PUBLISHED 5:06 PM ET Apr. 27, 2020
The people who work with the state’s vulnerable developmentally disabled population and those who work in the mental health field can’t work from home during the pandemic. And advocates say those workers deserve hazard pay during this difficult time.
“They are going into homes where we know that people who are COVID positive and we have them quarantined or isolated as much as we can,” said Susan Constantino, the president and CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State. “But they still have to go in and give the direct care to our individuals.”
Constantino of the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York is pushing for hazard pay for those who work with the developmentally disabled during the pandemic. The extra pay would, in part, help with staff retention.
“That would allow us to be able to say you’re valuable and stay,” Constantino said.
And Glenn Liebman of the Mental Health Association of New York State says those who work with the state’s most vulnerable populations need the same kind of recognition and support for those who are working on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“We’re talking about people who are running crisis support lines, going out there as part of mobile crisis times, who are running congregate care programs involving over 16,000 people with mental health needs,” Liebman said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in recent days has called for hazard pay for transit workers and first responders. But the state is low on cash and needs federal support. Liebman says those who provide services to developmentally disabled people face similar dangers.
“They are also in this danger zone around covid,” Liebman said. “They are not ones who can go and stay at home. Many of them are forced to go to work.”
And then there’s basic needs for these workers like personal protective equipment — which remain in short supply.
“The amount of protective equipment that we’ve had to buy and to buy — the burn on them is incredible when you are dealing with people in their homes,” Constantino said.
It’s likely any extra cash for New York to support hazard pay would have to come in the form of federal aid.