Hochul Details Her Plan to Overhaul Mental Health System

Photos by Darren McGee, courtesy of the Governor’s Office
February 2, 2023 – Bronx, N.Y. – Governor Kathy Hochul highlights her Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget mental health proposals in the Bronx.

On Thursday, Feb. 2 — 24 hours after unveiling her 2024 FY budget — Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, breaking down her $1 billion plan to set an adequate standard of mental health care in New York state. 

“This is the most significant change since the deinstitutionalization of the 1970s,” Hochul said. “We are fundamentally rebuilding, from the bottom up, our continuum of care. Continuum of care means we take care of everybody in the mental health system. It’s a monumental shift to make sure that no one else falls through the cracks.”

Today, more than 3,000 homeless New Yorkers are living with a serious mental illness that would qualify them for inpatient services. Many of them find shelter in the subways or the streets. In her State of the State Address on Jan. 10, Hochul announced her plan to add 1,000 beds for inpatient psychiatric services to address this issue.

To ensure that no one is ever denied inpatient care, the new legislation will allow the Office of Mental Health (OMH) to fine hospitals up to $2,000 per day for “failing to comply with the number of psychiatric beds outlined in their operating certificate.”

“But we have to also go beyond patient beds,” Hochul said. “My plan will expand individual support, connecting people to jobs and opportunities, job training and help adults with mental illness find a job that makes them feel they have dignity, that their lives matter.”

With the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New York City sitting just under $3,500 and the average entry-level position making shy of $3,000 a month, homeless adults living with mental illness would still be unable to support themselves with minimum wage jobs — let alone be able to afford services to deal with their conditions. 

In the proposed 2024 Executive Budget, Hochul allocated an additional $38 million in state funds to support minimum wage increases, as well as $25 million to develop “60 community step-down units designed to serve formerly unhoused individuals who are transitioning from inpatient care,” according to a press release by the Governor’s Office.

“Cost insurance should never be a reason people don’t get the help they need,” Hochul said. “We are proposing legislation to ensure that insurance companies are prohibited from denying access to mental health services.” 

The $1 billion mental health investment is a part of the proposed $10.5 billion for the Mental Hygiene system, which includes services for developmental disabilities, mental illness and addiction. The agencies that make up this system — OMH; the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities; the Justice Center; Developmental Disabilities Planning Council; and the Office of Addiction Services and Support — will use the funds to build facilities that provide vulnerable New Yorkers with prevention, residential, harm-reduction and recovery programs. 

The final state budget is due April 1.

Photo by Darren McGee, Governor’s Office