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Mental Health Update

Posted in:
February 5, 2024
Mental Health Update

Statewide Behavioral Health Advocates Press Conference Calling for a 3.2% COLA and a $500 Million Investment in Behavioral Health

Today eleven of the Statewide Behavioral Health organizations held a press conference at the Steps of the Capitol in Albany. Peers, family members, Providers and the workers themselves talked about the challenges facing the behavioral health care workforce. We were joined by Assembly Mental Health Chair, Aileen Gunther and the staff of Senate Mental Health Chair, Samra Brouk.

The speakers were all incredible and laid out a narrative of the importance of a 3.2% COLA and a $500 million investment in behavioral health.  If you are interested in seeing the power of this press conference, check out the face book link (Thank you NAMI) to the event.  Also from a MHANYS perspective, a special thanks to Cohen Miles-Rath, our Production Manager, who talked about his own hospitalizations and incarceration and how the work force was instrumental in his recovery.

Press release is below

link to it





Behavioral Health Advocates Rally for Increase in COLA  

Statewide Advocates Asking for 3.2% Increase in Cost of Living Adjustment and Investments in Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services and Supports


(Albany, N.Y.) – Twelve statewide advocacy groups hosted a rally in Albany to call on legislators and the Governor to include an 3.2 % increase in the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) and $500 million in needed investments for mental health and substance use disorder services in the 2024-2025 State Fiscal Year’s final budget.

The rally was held in Albany on Monday, February 5th at the NYS Capitol Building.

The group sent their concerns to the Governor and Legislature here.

Governor Hochul’s budget proposal included a 1.5% COLA, and advocates say this is not enough. The COLA is not just about staff salaries. It must also address ever increasing costs associated with operating programs and services, such as gas, food, utilities, insurance, etc. Like all households and businesses across the state and the country, agencies are continuing to do more with less, as current economic conditions have inflated the real costs associated with retaining staff and paying bills.

Agencies that provide services to the most vulnerable adults, children and families with mental health and substance use disorder need, must remain competitive with larger corporations who can pay well over minimum wage. A 3.2% COLA and $500 million in additional investments are necessary to assist in leveling the playing field and securing a stronger workforce.

“A cornerstone of the recovery process is a trusting relationship between people receiving services and their workers,” said Harvey Rosenthal, CEO, Alliance for Rights and Recovery (formerly NYAPRS). “This essential trust is broken when the workers who are meant to support you through the process are constantly leaving due to inadequate pay, pushing people to continually restart the process instead of focusing on improving their recovery.”

“ACL represents more than 42,000 New Yorkers, and advocates for their mental health; a cost-of-living increase of a mere 1.5% for those who help provide that care is not enough,” said Sebrina Barrett, Executive Director, Association for Community Living. “An increase so low is a cut to funding because it doesn’t allow mental health housing providers to keep pace with inflation. This is how providers got into such a desperate place over the course of the last few decades, because we can’t enhance our outdated funding and staffing models to help us care for residents who are aging in place. We can’t provide improved care for individuals who are navigating heightened challenges due to substance use, prior unhoused status, or incarceration. We can’t provide better care for those with medical concerns or other significant issues. We need a full 3.2% COLA increase.”


“New York State is experiencing an increase in overdose deaths due to fentanyl. There is an urgent need to expand access to effective treatment,” said Allegra Schorr, President of the Coalition of Medication Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates (COMPA). “Unfortunately, at a time when help is most needed, the Executive Budget decreases funding to the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) by 13.4%. That is insufficient during this crisis. Furthermore, Opioid Treatment Programs and Medication-Assisted Treatment providers are unable to treat patients up to their normal capacity due to a workforce shortage. Program staff are underpaid, overworked and burnout is high. Ensuring a 3.2% COLA, to keep pace with the Consumer Price Index, is an essential step in addressing the staffing predicament. This will help providers increase access to treatment and reduce barriers to delivering care.”

“A society that financially undercuts providers that administer care and healing to those who are struggling with emotional wellness and/or addiction is a society that devalues both the employees who do the work and the individuals, youth and families who need the help. Better, healthier communities start with better resources and this workforce is the lifeline for those resources. Families and young people need a workforce, not waitlists. That’s why we support a 3.2% COLA and $500M rate increase for community behavioral health providers” said Paige Pierce, CEO, Families Together in New York State. 


“New York’s response to our mental health and addiction crisis must address the biggest and most persistent roadblock to services: a rapidly diminishing workforce. Thousands of New Yorkers cannot access critical mental health and substance use care because there simply are not enough people working in behavioral health. We need state lawmakers to make a significant investment in building a diverse and qualified workforce. The current rates of pay are unsustainable and crippling the sector, literally costing lives,” said John Coppola and Amy Dorin, co-CEOs of InUnity Alliance. “Communities across New York State rely on local service providers to address their mental health and substance use challenges. It is critical that the state budget include cost of living adjustments so that funding for community-based service providers can keep pace with inflation so they can pay their bills. To accomplish this, a 3.2% cost of living increase is needed in the 2024-25 NYS budget.”

“It is very simple. In order to help people recover and move forward in their lives, in order to protect those in greatest need and in order to support people of color (who represent the vast majority of our workforce), we need a COLA for our workforce, said Glenn Liebman, CEO, MHANYS. Governor Hochul deserves a great deal of credit for making mental health her top priority, but this vision of caring and compassion cannot happen without the workforce in place to support this transformation. We urge the Legislature to add 1.7% to the Human Services COLA which added to the Executive’s 1.5% will provide a 3.2% increase consistent with the Consumer Price Index.”


Caring for those who care for us, is of the utmost importance to the individuals and families NAMI-NYS represents,” says Sharon Horton, Executive Director, NAMI-NYS

adding, “the historic failure to adequately address the behavioral health workforce has hindered providers’ ability to deliver life-saving services, thus creating a barrier to access. My family is one of too many who have experienced the negative ripple effects of the lack of these investments. We urge Governor Hochul to support the workforce as part of her prioritization of mental health.

“Our care management workforce continues to be on the front lines working with adults, children and families with behavioral health needs, often in crisis. The Executive’s budget proposes cuts to health home care management for adults and children. Care management agencies are struggling with increased demand coupled with increased operational costs. Restoration to cuts, and a 3.2% COLA which includes health home care management and an additional five hundred million investment in behavioral health is critical to support these essential care management workers, supports and services,” said Jackie Negri, Executive Director, NYS Care Management Coalition.

“If we make the necessary investments now, New York State has the opportunity to support our overburdened workforce, improve access to critical services for children and families, and work toward a sustainable behavioral health system for the future,” said Kayleigh Zaloga, President & CEO of the NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health. “As it stands now, children and families routinely wait months for both outpatient and residential services they need today, leaving families in crisis and children suffering when they should be finding support. This year we must add a COLA that effectively counters inflation, and make up for the decades of underfunding, to enable provider agencies to keep their doors open and support the staff that families rely on to function and thrive in their communities.”

“State leaders often urge New Yorkers to seek assistance for their mental health and/or substance use disorder problems and to do so early before the issue at hand becomes an acute problem.  But across the public mental hygiene system, New Yorkers face significant delays when attempting to access care – delays that range from several weeks to several months.  A large part of the puzzle is our ongoing workforce crisis.  Staff vacancy rates continue to hover around 21% annually.  Agencies cannot expand their services to meet increased demand when they are desperate for staff.  While we applaud the Governor’s inclusion of a cost-of-living adjustment in her executive budget, the proposed 1.5% increase will not be sufficient to close access to care gaps that are pervasive across the state, and it will not ensure community agencies can keep up with increased costs associated with operating these programs and services,” said Lauri Cole, Executive Director, NYS Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.

“Network members are facing dramatic cost increases in all programs and are at a breaking point.  Staffing, food, and insurance costs continue to soar, and the state must act to keep us whole,” said Pascale Leone, Executive Director, Supportive Housing Network of New York.

“A 3.2% cost-of-living adjustment for this year is critical, but the state must also include additional resources to address losses to inflation that have occurred over the past twenty years.  Our supportive housing tenants deserve full services and a safe home.”

The twelve agencies represented at the rally are: Association for Community Living, Coalition of Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates of New York State (COMPA), Families Together in New York StateMental Health Association in New York StateNational Alliance on Mental Illness New York State (NAMI), New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers/InUnity Alliance, New York State Care Management CoalitionNew York State Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health, NYS Council for Community Behavioral Health CareAlliance for Rights and Recovery (formerly NYAPRS)Supportive Housing Network of New York, and The Coalition for Behavioral Health/InUnity Alliance.