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Guest Blog: ACL Executive Director and Bring It Home Campaign Coordinator Toni Lasicki

02.26.2019

Bring It Home Campaign Coordinator Toni Lasicki reports on statewide rallies, tours and emails calling on the Governor and Legislature to address the funding crisis in mental health housing for 40,000 New Yorkers.

For decades, community-based mental health housing has been consistently underfunded, endangering the wellbeing of 40,000 New York State residents who rely on these programs for support as they navigate living independently with serious and persistent mental health conditions.

In response to New York State dragging its feet on an issue that requires immediate and adequate fiscal support, a group of mental health housing providers, mental health advocates, faith leaders, and consumers came together to create the Bring It Home coalition. With a shared goal of ensuring sufficient and properly allocated funding for mental health housing programs, coalition members have been working tirelessly to help state leaders understand the gravity of the consequences should the mental health housing system fail.

Since the inception of our coalition in 2017, we’ve been taking action to enhance state lawmakers’ understanding of the crucial services provided by mental health housing programs. A number of local and state leaders joined us for tours of mental health housing facilities where they got to meet overworked and underpaid housing providers and staff, and see where funding is most desperately needed. Additionally, our advocates set up meetings with executive branch leaders to further the conversations surrounding the cycle of mental health housing and homelessness and how we can better support those afflicted with both through community-based housing programs.

We also created an e-mail campaign which gave supporters across New York the ability to send a message directly to Governor Cuomo’s inbox. As of February 2019, there have been 27,000 e-mails sent reminding the governor of his obligation to fund mental health housing programs that are critical to the recovery of so many New Yorkers.

This month, we started holding weekly rallies across New York State calling on Governor Cuomo and the legislature to significantly increase funding for life-saving mental health housing programs. Dozens of advocates, supporters, and residents have joined us to protest at state offices in Albany, New York City, Long Island (pictured above), Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo securing coverage in newspapers, television, and radio throughout the state.

Bring It Home knows that it will take $172 million, at a minimum, to stabilize approximately 40,000 units of mental health housing. We are advocating that it be added to the 2019/2020 state budget or, alternatively, that the Governor and Legislature add $32 million this year and in each of the next four years to address the crisis.  

It’s encouraging to watch as the Bring It Home coalition expands its reach to all corners of New York State. We owe it to our friends, family, and neighbors whose lives have been touched by severe mental illnesses to do everything in our power to protect our state’s most vulnerable residents. As the Bring It Home coalition gains momentum, we look forward to finally seeing a better, stronger, and fully funded mental health housing system for all New Yorkers living with severe mental health conditions.

Updates on progress and information about upcoming events can be found on the Bring It Home FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages. For more information about the Bring It Home mission and data on the mental health housing funding shortfalls, visit BringItHomeNYS.org.  

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