On May 8, speaking to a crowd in Buffalo, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul laid out her plan to address mental health care in the state, a plan she says represents the largest state investment in comprehensive mental health care since the deinstitutionalization era of the 1970s.
The $1 billion plan is a “multi-year investment to overhaul the State’s continuum of mental health care” that aims to “drastically reduce the number of New Yorkers with unmet mental health needs.”
As part of the FY 2024 Budget the plan aims to overhaul a system that, according to Hochul, has suffered from “chronic underinvestment” by expanding access, reducing wait times, and ensuring appropriate levels of care for patients.
“Decades of chronic underinvestment has allowed far too many New Yorkers to fall through the cracks in our State’s mental health care system,” Hochul said, adding that “the plan to fix our State’s continuum of mental health care marks a monumental shift in our approach, reversing years of neglect to our system and bringing bold investments to ensure that everyone in our state has access to the high-quality care they deserve. Today, we mark a new era in our state, making the mental health needs of all New Yorkers a top priority.”
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The bulk of the investment, $890 million, will go to establishing 3,500 new residential units, including 500 “community residence-single room occupancy units” for individuals suffering from severe mental health, 900 “transitional step-down units,” and 600 licensed apartment units serving people with an intermediate level of service.
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In addition, 1,500 supportive housing units will be made available for individuals suffering from serious mental illnesses who have fewer needs but still require support to live in the community.
“Also included is $25 million in capital and $7.3 million in operating costs for 60 community step-down housing units in New York City, which will serve formerly unhoused individuals transitioning from inpatient care,” the plan reads.
Expansion of in-patient psychiatric beds
A total of $48 million will be made available as capital and operating funding to expand inpatient psychiatric beds.
The state intends to create 150 new adult beds in NY state-operated psychiatric hospitals, “representing the largest expansion at these facilities in decades.”
Under the plan, Article 28 community hospitals that fail to establish the number of psychiatric beds outlined in their operating certificate will be penalized. Hochul says that this will ensure beds taken offline during the COVID-19 pandemic are immediately restored.
Over $180 million is earmarked to establish 12 new “comprehensive psychiatric emergency programs” that will offer walk-in mental health care for people suffering with mental health or substance abuse issues. The funds will be invested to raise the number of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics statewide from 13 to 39.
A total of $40 million has been set aside to expand mental health supports for school-aged children, including $10 million to “strengthen suicide prevention programs for high-risk youth.”
The budget bumps up funding for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by $25 million, and “includes a 4 percent cost of living adjustment and an additional $5 million for the Office of Mental Health’s Community Mental Health Loan Repayment Program” which expands the eligibility for the program to include licensed mental health professionals.
The plan mandates that commercial insurance plans must adopt “network adequacy standards for behavioral health services; cover life-saving mobile crisis, crisis intervention, and post-discharge services, those provided in school-based mental health clinics, and life-saving addiction medication treatments and overdose reversal medications that are available over the counter; and follow utilization review standards that prohibit preauthorization or concurrent reviews for the first 30 days of mental health treatment for adults in an in-network inpatient hospital or crisis residence.”
“This is more than a call to action. This is a moral imperative to do something to help our people,” Hochul said.