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.

Mental health advocates push for more housing in NY

March 25, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Advocates for New Yorkers with mental illness have delivered nearly 25,000 letters to state leaders urging them to find more funding for community housing for those with significant mental health challenges.
    
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed an additional $10 million to expand community housing programs for the mentally ill but advocates say much more money is needed.
    
Community housing programs often link up residents with workforce training, medical care, therapy and other resources that advocates say reduces other costs related to homelessness, incarceration and emergency room visits.
    
Antonia Lasicki, director of the state Association For Community Living, says housing programs face a financial breaking point after decades of underfunding.
    
The letters were delivered on Wednesday. Lawmakers hope to approve a new state budget by April 1.

Source: http://wnyt.com/news/mental-health-advocat...

Herkimer Times Telegram CAPITOL WATCH: MONEY FOR MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health advocates have long argued that community housing for those with serious mental illness is not only far more effective from a treatment standpoint, but also far more efficient for taxpayers.

Now, they’re warning the state about higher costs for institutionalization and even prisons if New York doesn’t substantially increase funding for community housing programs, which seek to provide a roof — and vital mental health services — for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Decades of underfunding have left the community housing system desperately short changed, according to Toni Lasicki, executive director of the Association for Community Living. Funding for the system now ranges from about $7,000 per person to $25,000 per person per year, a fraction of what incarceration or hospitalization can cost.

Lasicki and other advocates are calling on lawmakers to increase funding in next year’s budget to avoid a shortage of community housing that would force more New Yorkers with mental illnesses into hospitals or jails.

“A stable home is the foundation of care and recovery for New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities,” Lasicki said. “Without reliable, adequate and continuous funding, providers will cease operations, leading to shortages of critical community-based housing units and punishing those who need help the most.”

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WTEN (ABC News10): Assembly holds hearing on housing for the disabled

By Morgan McKay
Published: December 11, 2017, 4:41 pm  Updated: December 11, 2017, 4:57 pm

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – New York has come a long way in how it cares for its disabled and mentally ill residents and continues to set new national standards in how these people are cared for.

However, these programs are at risk of being cut if something is not done soon to increase funding.

“We can no longer wait. At some point they have to pay attention to us,” Toni Lasicki, Director for Association for Community Living, said.

Lasicki says direct care workers still barely make minimum wage, even as some employees at fast food restaurants are earning $15 per hour. The legislature has pledged to raise direct care worker’s wages over the next six years, but Lasicki told the Assembly committee six years is too long.

“These jobs require staff to understand mental illness, supervise medications, do crisis counseling; these are anything but minimum wage jobs.”

It’s not just direct care workers taking a hit. Housing programs for those with disabilities and mental illnesses are falling short of making ends meet across the state.

“We’re talking about serious underfunding for a lot of years.
Con't...

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NY Daily News: Advocates: NY must invest more in housing for mentally ill

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Advocates for New Yorkers with mental illness say the state is falling behind on investments in community housing for this vulnerable group.

Legislators have scheduled a hearing Monday to examine existing housing programs for the mentally ill, with a focus on the best ways to improve the system.

Toni Lasicki, director of the Association for Community Living, says the housing system for the mentally ill is at a financial breaking point and that more must be done to help this vulnerable group of New Yorkers. Lasicki's organization represents programs and agencies that provide services and housing for 30,000 people with significant mental health challenges... Con't...

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Politico: Supportive housing advocates make case for more funding

By Nick Niedzwiadek
12/11/2017 04:21 PM EDT

ALBANY — There continues to be unmet need in New York State for supportive housing for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities, advocates testified Monday at an Assembly committee hearing.

Supportive housing services provide people the opportunity to live in the community, rather than in an institutional setting, and receive medical or other social services there. It allows them to be more integrated into society than they otherwise would be, and in some cases it is a more cost-effective form of housing than a state-run facility or jail.

Toni Lasicki, executive director for the Association for Community Living, spoke about the lack of access in urgent terms.

“Make no mistake about it, New York is facing a dilemma: We can either be a national model for how states can protect a population that so desperately needs support, or watch the system collapse and become an example of what can go wrong,” she said. “The funding issues are so acute that the existence of the programs [is] in jeopardy.”

Increasing funding to build and operate more supportive housing units, and units that can meet a wide spectrum of specialized needs, was the chief concern. But a close second was whether the two state agencies principally charged with overseeing these programs — the Office of Mental Health and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities — maintained sufficiently accurate data to guide decisions.

“There continues to be considerable concern about accuracy of the data, [and] this lack of confidence in the data undermines confidence in the broader effort to resolve the residential issue,” said Mark van Voorst, executive director of The Arc New York, an organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I’m not sure that if OPWDD was given all the operating funding it could conceivably need, these funds would actually solve the problem,” van Voorst testified.

Kerry Delaney, OPWDD’s acting commissioner, said wait lists aren’t the best way of tracking demand for supportive housing.

“It’s not necessarily a reflection of current need,” she said, noting the rolls have shrunk in recent years nonetheless.

Several groups at the hearing have banded together and formed a coalition called Bring It Home, which is pushing for increased state funding to help staff and operate these community-based housing facilities.

"We are part of this campaign because we know what is happening to the existing stock of mental health housing in New York,” Glenn Liebman of the Mental Health Association of New York State said at the hearing. “Structures are falling apart, resources are strained and staff is dramatically under-compensated for the work that they are doing.”

A similar effort last year successfully lobbied for increased state support to help pay direct care employees, who often work in supportive housing programs.

But the state is facing a $4.4. billion shortfall that must be closed in next year’s budget, and the sweeping tax bill working through Congress could, if it passes, also impact next year’s spending plan. Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh), chair of the Mental Health Committee, said she hoped that legislative leaders would be able to find the money to help fund supportive housing.

“Housing is critical, and supporting these folks is important, and I think that we neglected [them] for a long time and we have a lot of catch-up to do,” she said at the hearing. “I’m praying that things will turn around.”

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