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Mental Health Update

July 16, 2020
Mental Health Update

MH Update – 7/16/20 – Behavioral Health Advocates Continue to Weigh In on the Impact of Withholds to County Government

Behavioral health advocates continue to publicly weigh in on the impact of the budget withholds to our community. A 20% withhold in mental health and a 31% withhold in addictions disorders will have severe implications for individuals and their loved ones. The fear, anxiety, depression and trauma of COVID is only exacerbated when community providers, already existing on the margins, are forced into very difficult real life decisions.

Listed below are articles from the Buffalo News and Syracuse Journal that detail the impact of these withholds. In the last few weeks, there have been stories in those papers, NY NOW, Capitol Tonight, Crain’s Health Pulse, Albany Times Union and other media sources. Today, our colleague Lauri Cole is on with David Lombardo on Capitol Pressroom.

Our entire community is working together because we have shown on issue after issue when we work collectively, we are a very powerful constituency that represents well over a million New Yorkers with mental health and addiction disorders.

We are also putting the same effort into working with the federal government around funding for New York State in the next federal stimulus package.


Slam Cuomo Decision To Cut Substance Abuse Treatment

ALBANY – Two key state lawmakers are sharply criticizing a decision by the Cuomo administration to sharply cut state funding for substance abuse addiction treatment programs – at a time during the Covid-19 pandemic when law enforcement and health providers say drug overdoses and alcohol dependence are rising.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, said “people will die” if the cuts are not restored.

Rosenthal and State Sen. Pete Harckham, a Hudson Valley Democrat who chairs the drug and alcoholism committee in the state Senate, called the cuts by Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo “unwise” and “potentially calamitous.”

The lawmakers, in a written statement Wednesday in response to a Buffalo News article last week about the funding reductions, said the 31% immediate cut to treatment providers is especially disastrous because overdose deaths – due to everything from people being more isolated during the pandemic and strains on first responders to difficulty in being able to access an overdose reversal drug – have been on the increase statewide

“In lean times, people often say ‘we must cut the fat.’ The problem is, drug and alcohol providers have been subsisting on starvation budgets for years, and there is simply no fat left to cut,” Rosenthal said in a statement.

While there were dire fiscal predictions already being made, Cuomo adopted a state budget on April 1 that has since gone completely out of balance, attributable to a massive drop in revenues, such as sales and income taxes, as the economy has collapsed in most sectors. Cuomo has said for months that a key portion of the state budget, which funds everything from schools to substance abuse treatment providers, are in line for a 20% funding cut. The 31% cut to treatment providers in the past week was higher than expected, and came with no warning, treatment providers said last week.

Cuomo, who has the authority this year to cut state spending as he determines is necessary, has not unveiled any specific cuts for schools or hospitals. The administration is waiting to see if the state budget gets assistance from another federal bailout package, which is expected to be approved in the coming weeks in Washington. Cuomo officials have indicated the substance abuse treatment providers could see funding restored depending on the size of any federal bailout bill.

Rosenthal said treatment providers can’t afford to wait for a federal stimulus measure. “To be sure, Covid-19 has placed an inordinate strain on the state’s budget, but balancing it cannot come at the expense of people’s lives,” Rosenthal said. She added that the cuts “are particularly insulting when there are ways to raise revenue and avoid these cuts.”

Some lawmakers unsuccessfully pushed in March before the 2020 state budget was approved for a hike in taxes on wealthy people and some corporations. Everything from an income tax on millionaires to slashing state rebates given on stock transfers was pushed at the time. Lawmakers are set to reconvene Monday for a few days of sessions, though legislative leaders and Cuomo have not, so far any, publicly pushed any new tax hikes.

“It is certain that substantial decreases in funding to valuable, community-based treatment programs will add a great deal of woe to residents who need more help, not less, during this medical emergency. With our most vulnerable neighbors and loved ones especially at risk right now, we simply need to face these challenges together. Effective treatment options should receive the proper support they require,” Harckham said Wednesday.

The Cuomo administration has declined to say how much in state funding was cut by the recent decision to reduce the flow of money from Albany to localities, which in turn fund treatment providers, by 31%


Mental Health Providers Fear State Funding Cuts Could Mean Cuts To Service

WSYR Syracuse  July 15, 2020

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Providers, like Helio Health in Syracuse, were notified at the end of June that New York State withheld funding and mental health advocates are fearing that could mean people in need of help won’t be getting it.

The withheld funds total $5.5 million affecting dozens of mental health and addiction care services across New York ranging from detox and drug treatment to mental health counseling and housing.

President and CEO of Helio Health Inc., Jeremy Klemanski says they are working hard to convince their partners in state government that this decision is “a deadly deadly public policy decision”.

New York State is facing a massive deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic and according to Klemanski, providers like Helio Health were asked to cut back 20…even 30 percent.

“We’re seeing massive spikes in overdoses across the state and suicides as well so a tremendous concern at a time when the need is greatest with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic to have funds withheld it puts a tremendous strain the behavioral health treatment system across the state,” says Klemanski.

While Klemanski says Helio Health is still gauging the impact of the withheld funds, he worries, if the federal government doesn’t help New York that these temporary reductions could become permanent.

He said, “It will force some of us, if these withholds are carried into the 4th quarter, to evaluate reductions in services and possibly even layoffs in some program settings or in extreme situations you could even be talking about program closures.”

Leaving many of New York’s most vulnerable without the help they need.

Right now Helio Health’s programs are operating as usual.

If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction, depression or mental health, help is available. Call 211 or visit