For Immediate Release
Contact: Leanne Ricchiuti, Overit for Association for Community Living, 518.222.8073
February 9, 2020
Statewide Advocates Call on Elected Leaders to Support the State’s Most Vulnerable New Yorkers
OMH Commissioner & Senate, Assembly Chairs of Committee on Mental Health give voice to a vulnerable community
(Albany, N.Y.) – Advocates from across New York State joined forces Tuesday to amplify their voices on behalf of one of the most vulnerable populations. The Association for Community Living (ACL) held a Virtual Mental Health Housing Forum on Tuesday, and were joined by leaders across the state to call for support of mental health housing in the Empire State. The forum can be seen in full here.
The Forum’s featured speakers included the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) Commissioner, Dr. Ann Marie Sullivan, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Senator Samra Brouk, and ACL Executive Director Sebrina Barrett. Others who spoke were advocates, residents, housing staff, and family members who all shared perspectives on why mental house housing is more vital than ever before to providing a path to recovery for individuals with severe mental illness.
In the State of the State Address last month, Governor Cuomo included the conversion of vacant commercial property into affordable and supportive housing, and his proposed budget includes $250 million for new supportive housing; advocates agree that mental health housing is healthcare, and needed more now than ever before. By creating new supportive housing, Governor Cuomo is keeping his commitment to house some of New York’s most vulnerable populations. However, it is imperative that the supportive housing currently in operation see increased funding as well, if not first.
Before the pandemic, and before the state’s fiscal crisis materialized––which was just one year ago––mental health housing faced a $180 million shortfall. This is because the funding model that was created decades ago, has not kept pace with inflation. For example, employee health insurance premiums have risen 740% since 1984. The monthly premium rose from $183 in 1999 to more than $600 a month, or $7,000 a year. Current reimbursement rates for all fringe costs aren’t enough to cover just health insurance, let alone workers’ comp, federal payroll taxes, and unemployment benefits.
“Mental health housing is not only the right thing to do; it is fiscally smart,” said Sebrina Barrett, Executive Director of the Association for Community Living. “It is much less expensive than hospitals, prisons, jails, and homeless shelters. We have the ability to save lives, while saving the state money.”
“Adequate funding for supportive and mental health housing will help our neighbors and community members succeed,” said Senator Samra Brouk, New York State Senate Chair of the Committee on Mental Health. “These facilities are essential for recovery, and they provide vital, stable services for people in need of support. However, the staff providing that direct care need to make a living wage so that they can support their own families, too. Staff can’t focus on their jobs if they’re worried about putting food on the table.”
“Mental Health housing programs have been dealing with funding issues for many years,” said Aileen Gunther, Assembly Chair of the Committee on Mental Health. “It’s unacceptable and it needs to change. Direct-care staff in these programs have put their own lives at risk to ensure residential programs remained open throughout this pandemic. We need to do everything we can at a state level to ensure they receive a living wage.”
“I think we all recognize that this past year has proven to be a strain on everyone,” said Barrett. “The direct care staff and organizations that provide housing and support services have been instrumental in ensuring recovery from mental illness, and have enabled recovery to remain possible as the pandemic has changed all of our lives.”
ACL is a statewide membership organization of not-for-profit agencies that provide housing and rehabilitation services to about 40,000 people diagnosed with serious and persistent mental illness.
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About Association for Community Living. The Association for Community Living (ACL) is a statewide membership organization of not-for-profit agencies that provide housing and rehabilitation services to about 40,000 New Yorkers who have been diagnosed with serious and persistent mental illness. Many of the people served in these programs have co-occurring physical health problems and substance use disorders. The day-to-day rehabilitative and support activities performed in community residential and other housing settings are vital for people who face the daily challenges of living with a mental illness and want to live independent, productive and satisfying lives as members of the community.