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Legislative Breakfast on
Wednesday, March 14th at 9:30am in
‘The Well’ of Legislative Office Building
Highlights Budget Initiatives in Anticipation of State Budget on
continue to get enthusiastic responses from legislators regarding
our Legislative Conference. Among the legislators who we have confirmed
as speakers are Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Senator Thomas
Libous, Assembly members Paul Tonko, Donna Lupardo and Jeff Dinowitz.
Also, we are pleased that the new Mental Health Commissioner Michael
Hogan will be speaking as well. Because the 14th is his confirmation
date as Commissioner, the time he speaks is subject to change but
it appears to be around 10:45.
MHANYS Priorities in the Budget
timing for this meeting is very fortunate because legislators are
beginning to put their final priorities in place in anticipation
of the April 1st Budget deadline. Both in our legislative meetings
and in our testimony, we have called for several initiatives to
be added to the budget including:
$10 million in additional funding for local assistance programs
to help pay for peer run programs, children’s mental health
services, integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders, services
for youth in transition, individuals leaving correctional settings,
clubhouses and many other valuable community services
Make the COLA permanent as well as increase the base
Insure that anti-depressants continue to stay part of the carve
out of mental health medications in the Preferred Drug List
Language that will allow 500 of the proposed 2,000 new beds in the
mental health budget to be specifically designated for adult home
$3 million in funding for Geriatric Mental Health
$1.5 million to continue funding for suicide prevention efforts
$1 million to fund training, education and advocacy for issues of
Parents with Psychiatric Disabilities
our legislative day, talking points will be included for each of
these issues. I cannot emphasize how important it is for us to speak
out on these issues. In a year where policymakers were able
to find over $70 million dollars to pay for sex offenders in psychiatric
facilities, they should certainly be able to come up with $10 million
to pay to help fund community run programs which serve well over
500,000 New Yorkers with mental illness.
MHANYS Legislative Priorities
Support the bill that calls for the elimination of special housing
units for people with mental illness in prison commonly referred
to as the ‘boot the SHU bill.’(A.4870)
Support the Housing Wait List bill that will create a permanent
administrative tool that will identify the housing needs of all
people with psychiatric disabilities who do not currently have housing.
Support the Bill that will increase the provisions of Timothy’s
Law to include state supported insurance programs (Child Health
Plus and Family Health Plus). The bill is sponsored by Assembly
members Tonko and Gotfried. [It does not have an official bill
Support a bill that will establish two centers of excellence in
culturally and linguistically competent mental health (A.
contact your legislators to set up meetings. If you have any questions
or problems regarding meeting with your legislator, please feel
free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
to see you on Wednesday.
Sent to the Leadership of the Senate and Assembly Mental Hygiene
we get closer to the budget deadline, we wanted to reiterate our
positions on several initiatives. You have been a strong and passionate
advocate for the mental health community and we urge your support
for these items.
are seeking a $10 million increase in funding for local
assistance programs to help to overcome the cuts in recent
years to community run mental health programs. This funding would
be used to help pay for peer run programs, children’s mental
health services, integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders,
services for individuals with mental illness leaving correctional
settings, respite services, clubhouse programs and many other valuable
community services. In recent years there have been funding decreases
(outside of last year’s COLA), despite program costs increasing
dramatically for health insurance, liability insurance, heating
costs, gas prices, etc. This $10 million will help deflect the increasing
costs of running recovery driven, community based programs.
a year in which over $70 million can be allocated to house sexual
offenders in psychiatric facilities, policy makers should certainly
be able to identify $10 million to help fund community run mental
health programs which serve well over 500,000 New Yorkers with mental
also ask for your help in seeking to make the COLA permanent.
The one consistent message from every community run mental health
organization in New York State is the inability to keep qualified
staff. Though we know that the COLA should be greater than 2.5%,
we also know that we have to begin to move forward by creating a
permanent COLA. We urge you to help work with us to make the COLA
permanent and work with us to increase the base in the future.
are also advocating strongly to insure that anti-depressants
continue to stay part of the carve out of mental health medications
in the Preferred Drug List (PDL). We are very concerned
that if the anti-depressants do not continue to be part of the carve
out than Medicaid patients will not have access to the medications
that best meet their clinical needs. The implications of not providing
the best medications will be costly to taxpayers as well. Without
appropriate medications, individuals will likely end up in hospitals,
jails, prisons and emergency rooms.
we urge you to support language that will allow for 500
of the proposed 2,000 new beds in the mental health budget to be
specifically designated for adult home resident seeking
to transition to other housing options. According to the New York
State Office of Mental Health review of the adult home data, over
500 people have been identified who can live at a different level
of housing than adult homes. Very few adult home residents have
left their existing housing. This language change will create an
ability for adult home residents to have other residential options
in the community.
also urge you to add $3 million in funding for geriatric
mental heath to meet the needs of this significant and
often overlooked population as well as $1.5 million to continue
the funding essential for suicide prevention efforts in
New York State.
we urge you to consider the addition of $1 million in funding
for the issues of Parents with Psychiatric Disabilities.
Over 60% of individuals in the adult public mental health system
have children. Unfortunately, many individuals lose custody of their
children based solely on their mental health diagnosis. Funding
is needed to help pay for trainings, education and advocacy for
look forward to working with both of you and the entire legislature
to achieve those goals. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
your representative to co-sponsor the Paul Wellstone Mental Health
and Addiction Equity Act of 2007
Thank you to Mental Health America’s Advocacy Network members
who asked their senators two weeks ago to support and co-sponsor
mental health parity legislation in the Senate. That was
only a first step though and we still have work to do!
Congressmen Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN) introduced
a strong new version of the Wellstone bill for mental health fairness.
The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act would
bar employers and health plans from imposing stricter limits on
insurance coverage for mental health care than care for other medical
legislation is cosponsored by an historic bipartisan majority of
256 Members of Congress, including House Leaders. That’s a
great start, but Mental Health America needs your help to add more!
your representative to support and co-sponsor H.R. 1367 today.
Enactment of a strong parity bill is a critical first step toward
improving access to health care and addressing mental health conditions
with the same urgency and priority as we attach to other general
medical conditions. For more information about parity legislation
in Congress and other ways you can help, visit the Campaign to Insure
Mental Health and Addiction Equity website, http://www.equitycampaign.org/.
Albany Times Union, Editorial, March 6, 2007
now appears certain that New York will soon have a civil confinement
law for sex offenders. All of the circumstances point to quick approval:
Gov. Spitzer wants to make good on his pledge to end Albany's dysfunction
and show that he can get results; the legislative leaders want to
show they are tough on crime, and are willing to work with Mr. Spitzer
despite their recent differences over the appointment of a new state
comptroller, and polls show strong public approval for confinement
No one doubts that sexual crimes are often gruesome, and made even
more so because the victims are so often helpless children. And
no one can deny the statistical evidence that show sex offenders
have high rates of recidivism. Yet these are no reasons to rush
through legislation that raises so many questions about due process.
If anything, the Legislature should be taking a long look at the
implications of adopting such legislation.
Under the proposed law, medical professionals would evaluate those
who are about to finish serving their sentences for serious sexual
crimes to determine if they pose a risk of future assaults. If the
answer is yes, then the offenders would be entitled to jury trials
to determine whether they should be involuntarily confined to a
secure facility, where they would receive treatment, after they
have served their prison time.
But how would a jury of ordinary people possibly be qualified to
pass on the judgment of medical professionals? Granted, juries deal
with medical testimony all the time, and often it is conflicting.
But it is always within the context of a crime that has been committed,
and with other evidence to consider. The testimony of doctors and
other professionals is one factor among many weighed by the jury.
But that would not be the case in a civil confinement trial. There
would be no crime to look back on, only the likelihood that the
defendant might commit a crime in the future. There would be no
hard evidence to consider, no alibis, no witnesses to the scene
of the crime. Jurors would, in effect, have one duty: To pass judgment
on a professional's opinion about an offender's likelihood of posing
a risk if released back into society.
A New York Times article, reprinted in this newspaper Sunday, showed
how expensive confinement laws can be, and often how ineffective
the treatment programs are. The Legislature should consider a better
solution, such as longer sentences for even first-time sexual offenses,
with treatment mandated during incarceration. That, along with strict
monitoring of offenders who are released into society, and laws
requiring the public to be alerted when a sex offender is living
in their neighborhood, should help to protect society. It's not
foolproof, of course, but it is preferable to punishing people for
crimes they might commit.
Approves Bill to Confine Sexual Predators
The Journal News, March 7, 2007
By Cara Matthews, Gannett News Service
ALBANY - As the Assembly gave final passage yesterday to legislation
that would keep certain sexual predators locked up even after their
prison sentences ended, officials acknowledged that the practice
could cost the state an estimated $225,000 per offender per year,
compared with $32,000 annually for inmates in correctional facilities.
Eliot Spitzer and legislative leaders announced last week that they
had an agreement on so-called "civil commitment," bringing
years of wrangling and impasse between Democrats, Republicans and
former Gov. George Pataki to an end.
York will join 19 other states that have civil confinement when
the governor, as promised, approves it. It takes effect 30 days
after it is signed.
The measure would create a new sector in the state's criminal-justice
system and charge an Office of Sex Offender Management with developing
policies and standards to evaluate, treat and manage that population.
On the front end, it would allow longer prison sentences. For example,
it would eliminate the option of parole for felony sex offenses
and create a crime of "sexually motivated felony," in
which certain other crimes, such as robbery, are committed for the
sexual gratification of the perpetrator.
For the most dangerous sexual predators - those deemed likely to
re-offend if released - it would allow indefinite confinement in
facilities run by the state Office of Mental Health.
Those deemed to pose a lower recidivism risk at the end of their
prison terms would be released and subject to intense community
Some lawmakers balked because the cost of holding a person in civil
confinement in the state would be seven times more than prison.
It is more costly because of the treatment programs, medical personnel
and extra security required.
The financial details were outlined for lawmakers at a meeting of
the Assembly Ways and Means Committee shortly before the measure
was voted on.
"I believe that this will be presented to the public as a way
of making people safer and I wish that that were the outcome. I'm
not so certain that that will be," Assemblywoman Susan Glick,
"In some instances, that will be true, but the experience in
other places includes the fact that the cost of programs is virtually
unchecked and growing," she said, adding that there's no requirement
that civilly confined individuals participate in treatment.
Glick said the law would not address educating people to prevent
sex offenses in the first place.
Others said that this was legislation whose time had come, particularly
in light of cases of rape and murder by sex offenders and clear
direction from constituents that it is a priority.
The legislation is needed to protect families and communities, said
Assemblyman Marc Molinaro, R-Tivoli, Dutchess County.
"Our state can't wait any longer," he said.
Assemblyman David Koon, R-Perinton, Monroe County, whose 18-year-old
daughter was raped and murdered in 1993, said he wouldn't be able
to put a dollar figure on what the loss has cost his family.
"The point is if we can civilly confine these sex offenders
to the point where they are not committing other crimes out on the
street, we are going to save money in the state by not having more
crimes," he said.
The Assembly approved the measure 127-19. The Senate passed the
bill Monday by a vote of 53-8.
There are 133 people currently in civil confinement and will be
about 220 by the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year, which begins April
1, said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn.
The total would grow by about 100 a year.
The facilities where they would be held are Central New York Psychiatric
Center in Marcy, Oneida County; Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center
in New York City; Manhattan Psychiatric Center; Mid-Hudson Forensic
Psychiatric Center in New Hampton, Orange County; and St. Lawrence
Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg. They would be kept separate from
Mental-health advocates oppose the legislation because they do not
think the state should use its psychiatric centers to house potentially
dangerous sex offenders. The state should ensure that no funds in
the mental-health system should be directed away from patients and
toward treatment of sex offenders, they have said.
The bill calls for the state Attorney General to decide when to
seek civil commitment of individuals who have completed a sentence
for a sex offense and are determined by a state panel of mental
health professionals to suffer from a mental abnormality. A jury
trial would be held.
The governor's budget includes $66 million for civil confinement
in 2007-08, and the cost is estimated at $81 million, meaning another
$15 million would have to be added, said Blake Washington, a budget
analyst for the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.
Spitzer's budget also includes about $8 million for the Department
of Correctional Services to provide additional treatment for sex
offenders, $4 million more for the Attorney General's Office and
$6 million more for the Division of Parole for enhanced supervision,