Hundreds of people with mental illness and advocates for the mental-health system were at the Capitol today to lobby for the state to invest more money in housing, peer support and employment opportunities. They participated in the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services’ 14th annual Legislative Day.
According to NYAPRS, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget would continue the state’s overhaul of its health and mental-health systems in ways that are intended to continue consolidating and closing Office of Mental Health psychiatric hospitals, improve coordination of care and help avoid Medicaid hospitalizations and emergency-room visits. To achieve these goals, the state has been expanding managed care, establishing health homes and using behavioral health organizations. New York has 27 state psychiatric hospitals, about seven times the national average.
The organization said the state needs to do more than improve access to medical services and medications. It wants the state to “reinvest” the savings in community wellness, prevention and support systems. Research has shown that housing and economic stability and a community support system can reduce relapse rates and costly hospital visits, NYAPRS said in a statement.
“Otherwise, we will only be repeating the deinstitutionalization failures of the past where we closed the door to hospitals and ERs without placing sufficient services and supports in the community,” the group said.
Josue Hernandez, 32, of the Bronx said people with mental illness have a lot to offer, but they need more help finding jobs and housing and getting peer support after they are discharged from hospitals. He participates in a psychosocial club in the Bronx called the Boulevard Clubhouse, which provides placement in transitional jobs, advocacy and referrals and social programs. He finished a transitional-employment program and is now looking for a permanent position.
“My situation now, I’m dealing with finding a job after finishing my program. And it’s been a little hard,” he said.
He and his wife, Margaret, got married last July. They both belong to the Boulevard Club.
“They think that because I get disability and I work part time, they think I have enough to support the both of us. So until he gets a job, a lot of things are a stretch,” said Margaret Hernandez, 33.
Taxpayers spend more when someone is in a state psychiatric hospital than if they live in the community, said Christian Florio, a generalist/case manager at the Boulevard Clubhouse. “It actually costs less if you reinvest the money back into the community,” he said.