Syracuse Mental Health Advocates March (Again) for Adequate Funding for Housing Programs - WAER Syracuse

About a dozen people marched around the state office building today calling on the governor and lawmakers to properly fund housing programs for those with mental illness.  They’ve been holding these weekly marches for the past month as part of a statewide “bring it home” campaign.  Director of residential programs at CNY Services Tracy Lord-Mortas says the governor’s proposed a $10 million  increase in funding for mental health issues falls far short.

“There are 40,000 units of mental health houses across New York state, so you can imagine that $10 million...also given how far behind inflation we are. We haven’t got any significant increase in over ten years, at least not significant enough increase to get us where we need to be.”

Lord-Mortas says without proper housing, those with mental illness can’t get the support they need, and end up in and out of hospitals and even jail.  Long-time activist Agnes McCray says it can become a vicious cycle. 

“The justice system cannot be the answer. It not the cure all and all. And it’s sad to see how many are there, had nowhere to go, and are back on the street.”

The advocates are hoping lawmakers allocate more funding for mental health housing during the final week of budget negotiations.  The state budget deadline is April first.

Check out the article on WAER’s website.

Rochester First: WROC - 2/28/19 - 'Bring It Home' Coalition rallies for more funding for mental health housing

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) - The "Bring It Home" Coalition held its weekly rally to encourage the governor to add more funding for mental health housing to the budget.

Currently, Governor Cuomo marked $10 million to help community-based housing programs, but inflation has taken a huge chunk and advocates say that is putting people at risk.

"As those property costs go up, what happens is some of the money or a lot of the money has to be taken from services to pay for those increases," explains Doug Cooper, associate executive director. "These are programs that really help people recover from serious mental illness. However, if we do not fund them adequately, they're at risk of going under and people's recovery is at risk."

The group will be protesting every Thursday until the budget is passed.

Watch the video on WROC here.

WXXI News - 2/28/19 - Rally held in Rochester to increase funding for mental health housing

A rally was held outside the Regional Office of the Governor in Rochester in an effort to increase funding for mental health housing programs.

Doug Cooper is the Executive Director of the Association for Community Living, a statewide group that represents programs funded by office of mental health.

Cooper and about a dozen other people were outside on the corner of Liberty Pole Way and Andrews Street advocating to get more funding for mental health housing programs.

Listen to the story on WXXI News here.

A rally was held outside the regional office of the governor in Rochester in an effort to increase funding for mental health housing programs. WXXI’s Caitlin Whyte has more from Andrew Street.

"Its individuals who have in some instances they were hospitalized. They’re now out in the community, they’re working on their recovery and having safe, affordable housing is paramount to being a successful member of the community."

Cooper says they are thankful for the $10 million that is the Governors Justice Agenda includes for this housing now, but that it’s not enough due to inflation.

"As they develop housing, unfortunately they haven’t been given any increases over the years to keep up with inflation. So we have programs that are anywhere from 40 to 75% inflation if you compare to the last 25 years."

Cooper says they will be holding rallies every Thursday morning outside the regional office though at least when the New York state budget is passed

The Rochester event is part of a statewide effort with rallies also happening in Syracuse, Buffalo, Long Island and New York City.

Locals rally in Buffalo to support mental health housing programs - Dunkirk Observer

Locals rally in Buffalo to support mental health housing programs

BUFFALO — Local community members representing Southern Tier Environments for Living, Inc. (STEL) participated in the Bring It Home Coalition Rally in Buffalo on Thursday. The statewide rallies urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York state lawmakers to adequately fund community-based mental health housing programs. Rallies were also held in Long Island, New York City, Albany, and Rochester.

Over the past decade, mental health housing programs, which provide housing and built-in supports to tens of thousands of adults with serious and persistent psychiatric disabilities throughout New York state, have been critically underfunded, endangering the lives of vulnerable residents and straining housing provider staff and caregivers.

“Members of the Bring It Home coalition, STEL and our supporters are rallying to inform community members and government leaders about the challenges and needs which people with mental illness encounter when accessing housing and support services,” said Thomas J. Whitney, executive director for STEL. “Now is the time to take action as unfunded minimum wage increases are impacting our ability to attract and retain staff. New York State should do right by their most vulnerable, and provide the funding necessary to support residents living with mental health conditions who are at risk of hospitalization, incarceration, or homelessness.”

Rally participant and Gowanda resident David Bailey stated, “We need the funding. We have very little now and the cost of everything just keeps going up, but the only thing not going up is mental health funding. Today was a good day. I felt proud to be there and proud of who I am and what we’re standing for.”

The rallies are the latest push from the Bring It Home coalition to ensure that mental health housing programs are fully funded, building on an on-going campaign in which more than 20,000 letters from New Yorkers have been sent to call on Governor Cuomo and state legislators to make a significant investment in this year’s budget.

For more information about the Bring It Home rallies, please visit www.bringithomenys.org.

View the article on The Observer’s Website.

Mental health housing group calls for funding - Crain's New York Health Pulse

A coalition of organizations pushing for increased state funding to maintain mental health housing units gathered Thursday outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo's offices in Manhattan as well as other sites in Albany, Buffalo, Long Island and Rochester.

State support for the 40,000 units and on-site services for people with serious mental illnesses has not kept pace with rising costs of rent and labor, said Toni Lasicki, executive director of the Association for Community Living, who is part of the Bring It Home coalition of housing providers. 

The governor committed $10 million to the cause in his fiscal 2020 budget proposal, and the state has contributed more than $50 million since fiscal 2014.

She said the nonprofits that provide the housing and services need an additional $162 million, possibly over five years, to make necessary investments in staffing and services. Right now, she said, some providers can barely make rent payments.

That type of boost seems unlikely given the governor's recent downward revisions to health spending compared with his preliminary budget proposal because of projected declines in tax collections.

But that is what's needed for different types of housing models, such as licensed community residences, which serve more seriously ill individuals, said Lasicki. Most money currently goes to scattered-site apartments.

"He's putting out fires and ignoring the coming inferno," Lasicki said of the governor's plan. —Jonathan LaMantia

View the article on Crain’s Health Pulse

Statewide Rallies Call For More Mental Health Housing Funds - WBFO

BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – Statewide rallies are being held weekly demanding the Governor increased state funding for mental health housing. The ‘Bring It Home Coalition’ is staging rallies each Thursday in Long Island, New York City, Syracuse and here in Buffalo, targeting state lawmakers.  

“We’re just not getting the kind of response that we really need from them, because these are their programs – they fund them and they should fund them adequately,” stated Toni Lasicki, executive director, Association for Community Living in Albany.

The organization is working as part of the ‘Bring It Home Coalition’ to draw attention to a major issue of housing among those with mental illness.

A rally was held again Thursday outside of the State Office Building on Court Street in Buffalo. Although Governor Cuomo is proposing $10-million for community-based mental health housing in his Justice Agenda budget, Lasicki tells WBFO News it’s not enough to sustain current housing units.

“And as they bring new units on line, at a higher rate, we’re afraid that the providers will respond to that. They will develop that new housing, but they will cease to operate the existing housing,” responded Lasicki.

Lasicki said about 40,000 mental health housing units from Buffalo to Binghamton to Long Island, and all across the entire state, are at risk of closing because of decades of inadequate funding.

“For a vast majority of the last 30-years they haven’t gotten any increases, so they’ve lost an enormous amount of money to inflation,” explained Lasicki.

Lasicki offered a profile of those clients who are eligible for the housing.

“A person has to have a major mental illness. That means they have to have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder and they have to be functionally impaired by that illness,” replied Lasicki. “Many come out of a state psychiatric institution or they might come out of prison or jails or they might come off the streets or they might come from their own families. You know – we have a lot of people who have very aging parents, who are in their 80’s, who have taken care of their loved ones who are now maybe 55. Some of those people really don’t know how to take their own medications, so until they can really learn how to take their own medications and mange themselves in an apartment – cook, clean, do some laundry, navigate the community – they really need some extra support and that’s what two of these models of housing are designed to do.”

The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) responded to our request for an interview with a written statement. It says the governor’s proposed budget includes “significant resources to preserve and expand supported housing, and to help people with mental illness get the services they need to live safely and independently in the community.”

Here is additional information from the OMH:

Additional Information

Governor Cuomo’s Budget proposal for 2019-2020 includes:

  • An additional $10 million for existing supported housing and single residence occupancy programs statewide. Since State FY 2014, annual funding to enhance support for these existing housing programs has increased by more than $50 million.

  • $60 million in capital funding to maintain and preserve community-based residential facilities.

  • An additional $10 million for specialized supports, such as peer support and in-reach, to engage individuals with mental illness who require a higher level of care to transition and live successfully in the community. These resources will be utilized for individuals currently residing in impacted adult homes.

  • The Governor’s Budget also continues to support the expansion of community-based programs serving individuals in independent, less restrictive settings that are closer to family and other natural supports.

  • Additionally, Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI) has entered its third phase.  ESSHI is a component of the Governor’s historic $20 billion five-year housing plan that will develop 6,000 supportive housing units in New York State.  ESSHI provides awards of up to $25,000 per unit in services and operating funding, and targets housing for vulnerable populations, including homeless individuals and families with disabilities or other life challenges.

  • NYS leads the nation in the number of units of housing for individuals with a serious mental illness with more than 43,000 units.

    View the article on WSKG’s Website

NY mental health housing providers rally for funding, say fast food workers make more - WRVO

By TOM MAGNARELLI • FEB 15, 2019 - WRVO

Advocates for increased funding of mental health housing programs rallied in Syracuse and across New York State Thursday. They said there has not been a substantial increase in funding for more than 10 years.

Unity House of Cayuga County provides housing and other services to people with mental illnesses. Liz Smith, the executive director, said most of the money in their supported housing program covers the cost of people’s rents. As the market rate for rent goes up, the agency is left with less money.

“When you’re stretching the dollar, at some point, the dollar snaps and we’re at that point," Smith said. "There are providers out there that may have to actually give up their programs because they can't afford it.”

Smith said they need more money to recruit and retain qualified workers. She said people can make more working at McDonald's than her agency. The minimum wage for fast food workers in New York State outside of New York City is $1.65 an hour higher than the minimum wage for other workers. 

“We’re losing people because we’re not able to meet that dollar amount, that hourly rate," Smith said. "The other thing is this is hard work. Finding people who have the passion, the strength to be able to do this work is also a challenge.”

Smith was joined by other mental health housing providers, outside the state office building in downtown Syracuse, including Tracey Lord-Mortas, the director of residential programs at Central New York Services. 

“Costs, everything goes up, and our funding either stays static or goes up very little and we’re not able to keep up with inflation, minimum wage increases," Lord-Mortas said. "We’re not able to attract staff. We’re not able to provide the services that we want to and folks deserve.”

John Warren, the executive director of Central New York Services, said the situation is so dire, they are at risk of imploding.

The group of providers and advocates were also previously in Albany, lobbying legislators. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing $10 million in additional funding for housing programs for the mentally ill. But advocates said they want more than $30 million a year for the next five years.

View the article on WRVO’s Website here.