We want to thank everyone who stood up in support of the nonprofit human services sector throughout the NYS budget process. We saw some positive things, including the inclusion of the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for some segments of our workforce.
But the jury is still out on an issue that has the potential to impact tens of thousands of New Yorkers every year. A law enacted in 2010 made it legally impossible for thousands and thousands of these trained, qualified, licensed, needed professionals, including Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) to make these diagnoses. But every year since 2010, our elected officials have issued temporary exemptions to allow these professionals to make these diagnoses.
These temporary exemptions have helped more clients get help, and the past 13 years have proven beyond any doubt that these licensed professionals are capable and qualified. So why are we on the precipice of losing their ability to diagnose forever? The temporary exemptions will end forever this June if we don’t change the law. That means it’s time to change the law.
We need to make sure our state elected officials support the inclusion of legislation introduced in the state Senate (S5301-A) and state Legislature (A6008-B) to modernize and standardize requirements for these professionals. We need this settled by June 24, or people throughout the state will face even longer wait times when reaching out for help with mental health.
If you believe in this issue, let your elected officials know where you stand!
Previous Budget Issues
March 10, 2022
I Gotta Feelin: Mental Health Scope of Practice
There are nowhere near enough mental health professionals in New York state, a fact that sadly has been true for decades. These professionals have the training and experience needed to enable them to make informed mental health diagnoses when a client comes into care. And having a proper diagnosis is vitally important when developing a treatment plan, working with insurance companies, and helping clients make real, meaningful progress.
Here’s where it gets confusing: Even though there has historically been a shortage of professionals, a law enacted in 2010 made it legally impossible for thousands and thousands of these trained, qualified, licensed, needed professionals (including Licensed Mental Health Counselors and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists) to make these diagnoses. But every year since then, our elected officials have issued temporary exemptions to allow these professionals to make these diagnoses.
These temporary exemptions have helped more clients get help, and the past 12 years have proven beyond any doubt that these licensed professionals are capable and qualified. So why are we on the precipice of losing their ability to diagnose forever? The temporary exemptions will end forever this June if we don’t change the law. That means it’s time to change the law.
We support the inclusion of legislation introduced in the state Senate (S5301-A) and state Legislature (A6008-B) to modernize and standardize requirements for these professionals. We can’t take tools away from more than 10,000 life-changing professionals because of outdated thinking. Waiting lists are too long already. Let’s get this language into the budget, and let’s keep serving New Yorkers.
March 3, 2022
Stayin' Alive: Prevention Services
Thanks to new and better ways to treat children and families, over the past 10 years the number of children in foster care drop dramatically. For those children who do still require placement, the average length of stay has been reduced. Why? Prevention services.
Prevention workers work side-by-side with families, in homes and in communities, to help families find and get the help they need. These trained Prevention professionals get to know the rhythms of each household, and can see and address challenges before they become problems—problems that might lead to a youth entering foster care. During the pandemic, with the pain of disconnection adding to the stresses of h securing food, intimate partner violence, mental health crises, and substance use disorders, these Prevention workers stepped up and did even more to connect families to the help they needed. And they did it despite a ‘temporary’ cut in funding.
You know the old saying, “an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure”? Well, a dollar of Prevention funding equals fewer tax dollars spent in the foster care system. We applaud Governor Hochul for recommending the extension of the child welfare preventive funding statute for 5 years. The extension, however, fails to correct prior temporary cuts in reimbursement for local preventive services. Due to prior period state deficits, the preventive services reimbursement rate paid through to counties was reduced from 65 percent to 62 percent—year after year.
It’s a new day in New York, and these annual cuts are no longer needed. We recommend the preventive services funding be returned to the statutorily required 65 percent level effective April 1, 2022.
February 24, 2022
RESPECT: Retention Payments
The budget calls for one-time retention payments to be made to frontline staff in Office of Mental Health (OMH) and Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) programs. That means cutting checks to some of the frontline professionals who left their homes every day throughout the pandemic to deliver critical in-person care to some of the state’s most vulnerable individuals. These pandemic heroes didn’t ask for anything extra—they just kept going to work, helping others in need. We think they deserve these payments, and applaud the governor for including them.
But a big group of pandemic heroes, heroes who stepped up and showed the same strength and courage, who have been left out. Child welfare and human services workers strapped on their PPE, kissed their families goodbye for the day, and kept right on showing up for abused and neglected children, the elderly, those in recovery, and hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors. They deserve the same level of respect, recognition, and thanks as their counterparts in OMH and OPWDD programs, and we urge our elected officials to include them in the pool of recipients.
A fulltime frontline human services worker starts at about $30,000 a year, per the rates set in many of these programs. That’s $600 a week, before taxes, to live on. That’s rent, food, insurance, student loans, and hopefully a little self-care for those who truly need it. A retention payment can and would make an incredible difference in the lives of these heroes. They would be a way to not only say thank you, but truly show our gratitude. Let’s show them how we feel.
February 17, 2022
I Will Survive: Foster Parent Support
Foster parents are the core foundation of the child welfare system in our state, serving as a vital part of the effort to reduce out of home care and promote permanency. Foster parents receive a small stipend to provide care and support for children living in their homes—a stipend that for too long has not covered basic care and support. The Executive budget proposes an overdue increase those who provide in-home care to thousands of children each year.
Sadly, many potential foster parents, people who could and would make a real difference in a child’s life, elect not to participate because they have concerns about being able to financially support a foster child. The proposed monthly increase is deserved and will support the recruitment of new homes and parents. More foster homes means more children maintained in their home communities.
However, the financial increase is a cost for local counties. Increasing foster parent payments and then requiring local government to absorb the cost is just a cost shift and an example of state action that hurts local taxpayers.
Local governments will be forced reduce other programs to pay for the mandated foster parent increase. The options for reductions are few. Cuts will occur in preventive services programs, detention reduction projects and other youth focused services. Cutting one part of the human services safety net to bolster another is a zero-sum game.
That’s why we recommend the full funding of the foster parent increase through an increase in the level of appropriation for the foster care block grant.
February 10, 2022
Stand By Me: 11% for Special Education
New York state designates special education as “specially designed individualized or group instruction or special services or programs to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities, provided at no cost to the parent.” When a home district isn’t the right place for special education students to find success, they can attend what the state has designated as 853 Special Education schools. These schools feature smaller class sizes, higher staff-to-student ratios, more individualized educational options, and additional supports to these students. They provide extra help for those in need.
It stands to reason that extra help requires extra resources. Yet the state has historically funded these 853 schools at a lower rate than they fund public schools. Forget a higher level of support—853 schools haven’t even achieved funding parity from state lawmakers. Each year, advocates need to advocate for needed support, and far too often that support doesn’t make it into final budget packages.
This year, the proposed budget contains a one-time 11 percent boost in special education rates. We appreciate the recognition of the need for parity, and hope that such parity will be made permanent.
February 3, 2022
Here Comes the Sun: 5.4% Cost of Living Adjustment
New York’s families have faced many challenges in past years: the down economy, joblessness, homelessness, opiate/substance abuse, and violence in already plagued communities; for these forgotten New Yorkers, times are still hard. When families are in crisis and children are at risk, New York’s network of not-for-profit human services providers are both the first line of defense and the safety net.
Across New York state, 1 in 7 workers are employed by a not-for-profit organization. Women make up an astonishing 81 percent of the human services and direct care workforce in New York. This equates to 268,900+ skilled, well-educated workers who are paid significantly less than women in New York’s private sector.
The Executive Budget includes a one-time 5.4 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) to human services providers in FY 2023 for eligible programs and services, and we applaud the inclusion of the 5.4 percent COLA in the executive budget! These funds will flow to front line staff and allow them to make gains after years of underfunding. However, as part of the proposal permanent authority for the COLA expires. We recommend permanent extension of the COLA with annual adjustments to reflect the demands and importance of safety net programs--specifically, we recommend that the COLA be provided to the children and adult health home programs that have been started over the past decade.