The Network Joins a Coalition of Behavioral Health Advocates for Rallies for an 8.5% COLA

Categories: New York City

The Network Joins a Coalition of Behavioral Health Advocates for Rallies for an 8.5% COLA image


The Network joined a coalition of behavioral health advocates in Albany on October 25th and in New York City on October 26th for rallies calling for an 8.5% COLA in the SFY 2023-24 State Budget. The rallies stressed the collective concerns on the dire workforce shortage challenging the behavioral health sector and urged Governor Hochul to include the statutory COLA, tied to the July CPI-U at 8.5%, in her SFY 2023-24 Executive Budget Proposal.

In Albany, advocates gathered on the Capitol Hill steps. Glen Liebman, Executive Director, Mental Health Association of New York State, emceed the rally, and began the speaking program stating “Our workers are the lifeline for providing mental health services, support, recovery, and respect for our loved ones. We appreciate the Governor’s support last year with a 5.4 percent COLA but much more needs to be done and that is why we are here advocating for an 8.5 percent COLA attached to the Consumer Price Index. This will change lives.”

“Recovery is hard work and often requires the ability to develop a trusted and reliable relationship with community mental health workers,” said Harvey Rosenthal, CEO, New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS). “Years of state underfunding of community mental health agencies have resulted in constant staff turnover and high job vacancy rates which in turn result in broken relationships and lost hope and progress.”

“Rehabilitation Support Services' 25% staff vacancies mean we can’t do the job. Our workers qualify for food stamps," said Ashley Perry, Director, Rehabilitation Support Services (RSS).

“Mental health housing is the foundation for recovery for so many New Yorkers,” said Sebrina Barrett, Executive Director of Association for Community Living. “Under the current State reimbursement rates, housing providers are struggling to keep up with the costs of living, made worse by inflation, to continue providing recovery care to our most vulnerable.”

In New York City, advocates gathered at City Hall Park. Amy Dorin, President and CEO of the Coalition for Behavioral Health emceed the rally and stated, “New Yorkers––adults, children, families––are reaching out for help with their mental health and substance use challenges, as they continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. Far too often, they are met with waiting lists, closed programs and exhausted, overworked staff. It is essential that Governor Hochul fully funds an 8.5% COLA to combat the long-standing underfunding of these critical services and get New Yorkers the help they need.”

“Staff at supportive housing agencies address the challenges of homelessness associated with disabling conditions to help people live independently but have received only one state-funded COLA in over a decade. Inadequate funding has forced many nonprofits to pay staff immensely low wages resulting in staff shortages of up to 50%” said Steve Piasecki, Upstate Coordinator of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. “Staff in supportive housing are predominantly women and people of color, thus their suppressed wages are also a matter of racial and gender inequity. The state needs to fund an across-the-board 8.5% COLA for state funded workers tied to rising inflation in the upcoming budget.”

"I see it. Our workers need a raise. They deserve a raise. They struggle while helping us get better." Stephon Hollman, tenant and Board member of Concern Housing.

“I am living proof that with the right supports, people with disabilities can thrive,” Stacey Lewis, Peer Program Specialist, ACMH. 

 See a one-pager on the ask is here.

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