New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday revealed a $1 billion plan to tackle mental health crises connected to rising crime and inequality in housing and health, as well as mounting concerns about pandemic-related trauma suffered by children.
The Democratic governor’s sweeping proposal to create thousands of housing units for New Yorkers with mental illnesses and reverse decades of disinvestment in inpatient mental health care is part of her State of the State address being delivered in Albany.
The fate of Hochul’s mental health plan will be debated during the state budget process, which will unfold in coming months before the April 1 budget deadline.
Among Hochul’s mental health plans:
As New York emerged from the pandemic, concerns surrounding mentally ill people driving spikes in violent crime in New York City became a key issue during November’s elections, and contributed to several downstate Republicans victories.
Hochul won a historically close race against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin. Since then, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, has urged state lawmakers to make mental health reforms, including support for a New York City measure that allows authorities to pursue more involuntary psychiatric inpatient care.
One reason for the need is that New York’s health system has closed hundreds of inpatient psychiatric beds in recent decades, in part, due to national industry trends away from the costly care in favor of more profitable health services.
In 2000, for example, New York had 6,055 certified inpatient psychiatric beds. By 2018 that number had dropped 12% to 5,419, with most of the decline involving New York City and Long Island, a nurses’ union report shows.
“We have underinvested in mental health care for so long, and allowed the situation to become so dire, that it has become a public safety crisis, as well,” Hochul said Tuesday.
The plan will also expand a range of outpatient services to expand mental health care access, reduce wait times, and ensure appropriate levels of care, she added. It will also close gaps in insurance coverage for mental health services.
Insurance companies would be barred from denying access to medically necessary, high-need, acute and crisis mental health services for both adults and children under the plan. Commercial and Medicaid coverage of mental health services would also be expanded.
While inpatient psychiatric bed needs are most dire in New York City, concerns about mental health declines in children are mounting statewide and nationally.
Experts warn more kids are reporting rises in traumatic experiences, anxiety and other mental health issues in recent years, as earlier problems linked to pandemic lockdowns remained an issue.
Hochul’s plan will expand access to mental health services in schools by increasing Medicaid payment rates for school-based satellite clinics and school-based wraparound services.
The proposal will also introduce legislation requiring commercial insurance providers to pay for school-based services at a level equal to the higher paying Medicaid rate, to ensure timely access for all children, she said.
The plan also outlines an annual investment to provide the start-up funding necessary to get new and expanded school services in operation quickly.
This article originally appeared on New York State Team: Mental health in NY targeted with $1B plan to fix crises