Bring It Home/ACLNYS Testimony 2/13/18

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Testimony of Antonia Lasicki,
Association for Community Living, Executive Director, on behalf of
Bring It Home
JOINT SENATE/ASSEMBLY LEGISLATIVE HEARING ON 2018/2019
BUDGET: Mental Hygiene
February 13, 2018
Good morning Senator Young, Senator Ortt, Assemblywoman Weinstein,
Assemblywoman Gunther, Committee Members and other Members of the Legislature.
On behalf of the Bring It Home coalition, I thank you for this opportunity to testify before
your committee.
My name is Antonia Lasicki and I am the Executive Director of The Association for
Community Living. ACL is a statewide membership organization of not-for-profit
providers of community-based housing and rehabilitation services for more than 35,000
New Yorkers who have been diagnosed with serious, persistent psychiatric disabilities.
Virtually all of the people living in these units rely on state-funded housing with a variety
of supports and services, as well as Medicaid for mental health treatment and other
health related services.
Today I’m speaking on behalf of my organization, ACL, as well as Bring It Home a
statewide coalition of more than 200 community-based mental health housing providers
and advocates, faith leaders, residents, and their families. Through education and
advocacy, we are working to bring better funding for better care to New York, and we
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strongly urge you to include adequate funding for our critical mental health community
based housing in the final New York State Budget.
In his State of the State address last month, Governor Cuomo made a commitment to
combat homelessness, and when speaking about New Yorkers with mental illness, he
said that our “obligation as a caring people – a compassionate society [is] to reach
out, to provide whatever social services or address whatever needs the individual
presents. It is our job.” I could not agree more. Unfortunately, the poetry of the
governor’s annual address did not match the prose of his budget proposal, and that’s
why I am here urging all of you to take action.
Let me tell you a little about our residents. The men and women who are living in
community-based mental health housing are as diverse as New York State. They are
young people recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. They are older folks learning to
live on their own after hospitalizations. They live in rural areas in upstate New York, on
Long Island, and in every city from Buffalo to Brooklyn. They are our neighbors, our
friends, our family. They are your constituents.
New York has historically been a national leader in mental healthcare. Under the
leadership of both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his father Mario and with the support of
the New York State Legislature, including many of you listening to me testify today
New York set new national standards to care for, and protect, people with psychiatric
disabilities. However, despite building a breadth and depth of mental health housing
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opportunities that is unparalleled in the nation, the state has not kept its promise to
adequately fund these housing programs that care for the New Yorkers who most need
our help.
For more than 25 years, mental health housing providers have received few increases
to their funding and most of the increases that were provided went to New York City,
Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley, because the state just wouldn’t make enough
money available so it focused on the units that would imminently fail without help. This
has kept them on life support while the rest of the state is near cardiac arrest. None of
the programs are financially healthy.
In bad years, we’ve been told there isn’t any money, and in good years, we’ve been told
there wasn’t enough for us. Within the five models of housing programs, only three have
received increased funding since 2009, and only in restricted geographic areas. All of
the programs throughout the state are stretched untenably thin. For example, the
Supported Housing program spends nearly all of its funding on rent, which leaves little
for mandatory staffing, lease management and other obligations. With unreliable
funding across the state, our mental health housing system has reached a financial
breaking point. And the people who will feel it are some of New York’s most vulnerable
residents, who suffer from the disruption that staff vacancies and staff turnover create,
not to mention overworked supervisors.