State Embarking on $1 Billion \”Transformation\” to Address Mental Health Crisis

ALBANY The state has launched a $1 billion effort to address a mental health crisis exacerbated by the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic in what experts say is the biggest transformation in mental health care since massive hospitals psychiatric facilities were closed in the 1970s.

Effort Funds All Phases of Mental Health Care, Including Adding Mobile Crisis Teams to the Streets, More Professional Care in Schools, and More Space for Psychiatric Patients in Hospitals, as well as Strengthening the 988 Hotline and Providing Help and Support extended after people have been discharged. The measures also include ensuring that private insurance companies provide mental health coverage equal to that for physical health, as already required by law.

The mental health crisis affects nearly half of adults at some point in their lives, while others suffer from chronic cases of depression and other mental illnesses, according to experts. The state effort also increases funding for hospital care as part of a public safety element to curb homelessness and street crime.

The era of ignorance of these people\’s needs is over, Governor Kathy Hochul said in her state of the state address this year. Today marks a reversal in our state\’s approach to mental health care. This is a monumental change to make sure no one falls through the cracks, the most significant change since the deinstitutionalization era of the 1970s.


The state\’s new mental health plan includes:

  • Housing for severely mentally ill people, many of whom are homeless.
  • Provide more mental health services in schools.
  • Significant expansion of outpatient services.
  • Fill gaps in some health insurance coverages that don\’t include mental health care and substance abuse.
  • 150 new adult psychiatric beds in state mental hospitals.
  • 12 new comprehensive psychiatric emergency programs.
  • Triple the number of statewide behavioral health clinics to 39 for immediate mental health and substance abuse care.
  • 42 more assertive mobile community treatment teams for children and adults.
  • Eight other safe options support teams to support mental health professionals, five of which will be in New York City
  • 50 new Critical Time Response Care Coordination Teams to deliver encompassing services, including housing, employment support and education assistance for children and adults discharged from hospitals and emergency departments.
  • More funding for crisis interventions in homes.
  • More funding to tackle eating disorders.
  • Expanding outreach and peer engagement for adults.
  • Expanding a mental health student loan repayment program to include licensed mental health professionals.
  • More funding for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which is now in its second year

But the influx of spending, the second in two years under Hochul, is missing in what mental health advocates have called an important piece: compensation for workers who perform services.

Hochul and the state legislature provided 4 percent cost-of-living increases for health care workers, including those in the mental health field. That\’s half of what advocates were after, who say it\’s only starting to offset stagnant funding since Gov. Eliot Spitzer called for cost-of-living hikes nearly 16 years ago. The fallout from the wage issue is job vacancies and a high turnover rate, mental health advocates have said.

Still, advocates say efforts to combat the growing mental health crisis are extraordinary.

It\’s a panoply of great successes in many ways, said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York State. COVID has had a real impact, there was a fading mental health crisis, but COVID has intensified it.
Everyone will be directly or indirectly affected by the mental health crisis, Liebman told Newsday.

Others in the field agreed.

We\’ve never seen such a commitment to mental health, said Matthew Shapiro, senior director of government affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in New York State, a grassroots organization for people with mental illness and their families. .

Several trends prompted the state\’s response.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently said that 1 in 4 adults nationwide suffered from mental illness, and more than 12 million adults had serious thoughts of suicide, according to a 2021 survey. Other studies have found that more than 40 percent of Americans have suffered from mental illness at some point in their lives.

Proponents note that most mentally ill people do not commit crimes; those who do are often homeless and have a history of violence in their background.

New York Mayor Eric Adams has said crimes on the subway are being led by people with mental health issues and has ordered that they be placed in psychiatric facilities when charged with crimes. High-profile cases include the 2022 incident in which a person with a history of mental illness and violence pushed a passenger into the side of a moving subway train in Times Square.

Hochul and the Legislature approved $1 billion for mental health care in the 2023-24 state budget. The funding will add 1,000 beds and add 3,500 housing units for people suffering from mental illness. These and other services are aimed in part at the 3,200 people who live on the streets and in the subways.

Much of the effort is aimed at helping young people coping with mental illness and trauma through more screening and services.

We see many students in crisis or with mental health issues or behaviors, said Bob Schneider, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association. They won\’t be able to learn when they have these problems.

You have kids that come to school districts and a lot of them have some trauma at home, and they bring it into the school building, Schneider said. Emotional problems, including depression, are big problems.

A 2022 survey by the Council of School Superintendents found that 90% of superintendents said schools are taking a greater role in providing non-academic services, including mental health and physical health care, meals and recreation. Eighty-one percent said schools are the first and most readily available mental health services for young people in their communities.

Hochul is planning a youth mental health summit in June to highlight the crisis and seek solutions.

Although school shootings are driving the conversation for some to boost mental health services in schools, only about 5 percent of mass shootings are related to serious mental illness. However, 25 percent are associated with depression and other psychiatric and neurological illnesses, according to the 2022 Columbia University Department of Psychiatry report by Dr. Ragy Girgis, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry.

Shapiro of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said the state\’s effort, along with President Joe Biden who used his State of the Union address to focus on the national mental health crisis, will impact a long-intractable problem.

We\’ve never heard of mental health in State of the State or in the State of the Union, and both the president and the governor have normalized that conversation and showcased the importance of mental health care, Shapiro said. I think it goes a long way in cutting through stigma.

Michael Gormley has worked for Newsday since 2013, covering state government, politics and issues. He\’s covered Albany since 2001.

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