Cuomo's Mental Health proposal, shortchanges people in need, undermines economy

Fragmented Hudson Valley mental health services are proof of broken promises

MIDDLETOWN, NY (09/19/2013)(readMedia)-- CSEA today warned state lawmakers that New York State has a responsibility to ensure access to mental health services without undermining the regional economy. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to run down state psychiatric services, including the planned 2017 closure of the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center in New Hampton, will worsen the availability of mental health services in the Hudson Valley and eliminate hundreds of necessary jobs that fuel the region's economic activity.

"Too many people suffering from mental illness can't get the help they need now and the governor's plan will make a bad situation worse," said CSEA President Danny Donohue "You don't have to look further than the Hudson Valley to see the broken promise of community reinvestment. Let's also be clear that the rundown will take decent jobs out of area communities and have a ripple effect on all kind of businesses."

CSEA submitted testimony to the state Senate and Assembly Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities committees, which began hearings on the plan. The governor has proposed a vague plan to consolidate long-term inpatient treatment for people with mental illness, disrupt essential children's care and place greater emphasis on community services. But the administration has offered little detail about meeting needs of people and communities.

The Cuomo administration's own Office of Mental Health stated in its most recent five year plan that current "state psychiatric hospital capacity cannot be responsibly and rapidly reduced without managed investments in community care." Yet the administration is disregarding that warning.

There is also substantial evidence that the state underestimates the need for long-term care for seriously and persistently mentally ill people. Contrary to some advocates' claims, there are many individuals who can't just live in community settings with minimal assistance – they need longer-term care and supervision. By some estimates, more than half the inmates in county jails and correctional facilities have some form of mental illness. Many of these individuals wouldn't even be incarcerated if they could get the help and care they need in their community. Local taxpayers will continue to foot the bill and then some for the state's failure to ensure appropriate services in what amounts to an unfunded mandate."

CSEA believes there are better approaches to consolidation and closure. It starts with a candid assessment of service gaps and development of appropriate programs and housing which utilize the experienced and capable state workforce.

New York has been reducing access to mental health services for the past 20 years by closing psychiatric centers, which provide the backbone of mental health services, including outpatient services in many communities. Local closures or mergers at Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center, Middletown Psychiatric Center and Hudson River Psychiatric Center have left people and without adequate access to mental health care in their own communities.


Note: CSEA leaders will testify in Middletown regarding local concerns about the Governor's plan. CSEA has also begun a statewide radio and TV ad campaign challenging the Cuomo administration's bad mental health policy.