MHANYS Budget Summary
The coronavirus has completely changed the narrative in regard to the budget. In all the years of working on the budget, there has never been a a document quite like this one. Before reading this analysis, the caveat is the budget is filled with language that provides the Governor with great discretion to add or reduce funding based on the State’s quarterly tax returns. Given the world we are now in, there is no telling what the future holds in terms of State revenues. A lot of this year’s budget is predicated on borrowing, one time revenue enhancements and cuts. As a friend of mine said so well, ‘this year’s budget is not written in pen, it is written in pencil’.
I have left out the section on Medicaid cuts and will provide an analysis next week.
Listed below are some of the highlights of the budget in relation to mental health.
Our collective advocacy was limited for the most part out of the somber reality of the pandemic. No rallies, calls, social media posts or press conferences were held. Instead, we have raised issues respectfully specific to the great need generated by those in the front lines of the fight—the community agencies and their workforce. Our Mental Health Association members serve as the safety net for thousands of New Yorkers in greatest need during this crisis. The main advocacy of this year’s budget was the entire human services sector call for a three percent increase in funding every year for the next five years—reflecting our campaign name #3for5.
Given the coronavirus outbreak, we pivoted from a #3for5 ask to a discreet funding stream created for the human service agencies to combat the pandemic. This funding stream was not included in the budget so now our strategy has become federal in our advocacy calling for a Stimulus 4 package to include funding for mental health community providers as well as other human service agencies. We will be working with our national organization, Mental Health America, to get out this messaging.
As a footnote to the campaign that was created by #3for5—it was unique in the annals of human services in New York State. For virtually every statewide human service agency to speak with the same voice was both powerful and optimistic. The over twenty five statewide organizations worked seamlessly to get out messaging. There were very few legislators and staffers who were not aware of the campaign. Had this been a normal budget year, maybe we would have succeded, but we are not giving up by any means. We all saw the strength of unity and the future bodes well for our campaign. In the meantime, we are hardly giving up as we move to a national strategy. Most importantly, as this crisis continues, everyone is seeing first hand the impact that community providers are having in helping to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus. Much like our colleagues working in hospitals, the community agencies have been real heroes in this insidious battle.
Mental Hygiene Workforce:
New York State continued its commitment to a 2 percent increase across the board increase as of April 1 for the OMH, OPWDD and OASAS direct care workforce—the so called 100, 200 and 300 series. This funding increase is a reflection of last year’s Bfair2DirectCare campaign. While hoping to grow on that number in this year’s budget, we were all committed to insuring that this 2 percent increase was reflected in the final budget. We credit the Governor and the Legislature for their steadfast support despite the existing budget situation we face.
The State kept it’s commitment in this year’s budget by adding $20 million to mental health housing in New York State for increased rates for housing providers. For many years, housing providers in NYS (including several MHA members) face rising rental fees and administrative costs. While, NYS has over 40,000 units of mental health housing which is more than other State, the funding has been inadequate for the needs of many individuals in the residential programs. This funding is much needed to continue to pay for the expenses of running housing agencies across New York State. This money will be utilized to help support residential programs which will dramatically increase housing opportunities for individuals while also providing piece of mind to their family members. We want to acknowledge the tireless dedication of retiring ACL Director Toni Lasicki and Deputy Director, Doug Cooper for their leadership
School Mental Health Resource and Training Center ($500,000)
We are very pleased that the Governor’s Executive Budget includes funding for MHANYS School Mental Health Resource and Training Center. This is a continued commitment from the State to help support the nation’s first Resource Center dedicated to supporting mental health in schools. This funding will be utilized to help support the needs of students, teachers, administrators and families as New York continues to lead the nation in supporting mental health instruction in schools.
Mental Health First Aid:
MHANYS has received $100,000 in the budget to continue to support our statewide affiliates in being trained on Mental Health First Aid. After we all come out of this pandemic, there will be a great need to provide the support and knowledge of mental health that will be provided through Mental Health First Aid. We want to particularly thank Senator David Carlucci for his support of this important initiative.
Joseph Dwyer Veterans Mental Health Peer to Peer Program
The Legislature has continued their strong support of the Joseph Dwyer Peer to Peer Veterans Mental Health Program. In total, there is over $4.5 million dollars in this year’s budget dedicated to the Dwyer program. This is a full restoration of last year’s adds and includes new funding for programs in Ulster and Sullivan Counties and additional funding for New York City. MHA members run several Dwyer programs around the State and we are honored to work some of the nation’s true heroes.
Suicide Prevention Program for Veterans, First Responders and Law Enforcement:
This year there was the inclusion of one million dollars in the budget for suicide prevention efforts around veterans, first responders and law enforcement.
For the last fifteen years, whenever the Executive has proposed taking away consumer protections around medication assistance, the legislators has always funded the restoration of this program. We thank the legislature for their steadfast resolve in restoring Prescriber Prevails. As a result, . Prescriber Prevails continues to insure that individuals in consultation with their prescriber would have the final say in terms of appropriate medication. As a family member, I can affirm that the appropriate medication is an essential part of recovery for my loved one. Not being limited to a plans formulary for medication usage is an important consumer protection and one that will help avoid unnecessary and costly hospitalizations.
Parity Compliance Fund:
The Legislature supported the Executive’s call for a Parity Compliance Fund. The fund takes penalties imposed on plans for violation of parity and adds them to the funding that supports the MH/SUD Ombuds program.
As we have said on several occasions, we have been strong supporters of the NYS OMH, DOH, DFS and OASAS for the groundbreaking work they are doing to insure the strong enforcement and support for the parity law.
Crisis Intervention Teams:
Noticeably absent for the first time in many years was no additional funding for CIT. As we know CIT is a best practice for the engagement of individuals in a mental health crisis and their families with law enforcement. We are very disappointed that there was no new funding in this year’s budget.
There were no additional psychiatric hospital bed closures in this year’s budget. Without any bed closures, there is no new community reinvestment funding in place
Student Mental Health Program:
Separate from MHANYS School Mental Health Resource Center, there is ten million dollars in the budget for grants to school districts to address mental health. These grants are being utilized to improve mental health resources and access to mental health supports for students impacted by trauma. We thank the Governor for his leadership on this initiative and the Legislature for their support.