NYAPRS' Annual Legislative Day in Albany
By Sharon Spieler
Outlined Are Their Priorities
The Annual Albany Legislative Day sponsored by the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) took place on February 25, 2015.
Consumers from all counties throughout New York City and New York State attended. There was a full schedule of events for the day. The morning began with a welcome from NYAPRS Co-Presidents Carla Rabinowitz and Alison Carroll and Public Policy Co-Chairs Carla Rabinowitz and Ray Schwartz.
After this, NYAPRS laid out the 2015-16 State Public Policy Priorities. Various speakers made their case:
1. There is a housing crisis. Funds are needed for supported housing as the cost of these houses has risen over 50% and are now underfunded. Add $82 million to the Executive Budget’s $17 million allocation;
2. Expand housing for the homeless by creating 30,000 New York City and 5,000 statewide units of supportive housing;
3. Adult home residents with psychiatric disabilities have been promised a transition to community-based residences and in order to achieve this, an approved $30 million allocation must remain;
4. Much was said about criminal justice reforms such as expanding crisis intervention teams, raising the age of youthful offender status to 21, prohibiting solitary confinement for any person with a psychiatric or physical disability, establishing Medicaid eligibility for all individuals discharged from forensic settings to enable immediate access to needed services and supports, and expanding the New York State's Office of Mental health (OMH) criminal justice services for persons leaving state prisons through discharge planning, wrap-around community supports and supported housing. Use the $22 million executive budget allocation for this;
5. Those persons with disabilities should have access to a home health aide for personalized assistance and a smooth community transition from institutional settings;
6. There should be no interference in what kinds of medication can be prescribed to patients to ensure the safety and choice of public benefit consumers regarding their medications and restore $4.1 million;
7. Preserve $115 million in Medicaid funding to support a recovery-focused transition to Medicaid managed care; and finally
8. Approve $15 million in new community-funded services such as urgent care, crisis respite, housing and recovery supports.
The featured Speakers included Assistant Deputy Secretary for Health Tracie Gardner, OMH Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan, Assembly Mental Health Committee Chair Aileen Gunther, Senate Mental Health Committee Chair Robert Ortt and Assembly Criminal Justice Committee Chair Daniel O’Donnell.
NYAPRS Awards were presented to Jennifer Parish, Karen Wera, Dottie Harie and Michael Virtanen. A rally took place in front of the Capital Building and groups of Consumers met with their own state legislators to discuss these mental health issues.