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The Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, Inc. Coalition Briefs
An Evolving Semi-Monthly Update on Community Behavioral Health in New York
                        October 27 , 2011

Medicaid Redesign Work Group Updates

The Work Groups of the New York State Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) have been active this month. Under the MRT, 10 work groups were formed to provide further review and recommendations. Here are brief updates on the activities that relate to behavioral health.

Behavioral Health Reform Work Group

The Behavioral Health Reform Work Group issued its final recommendations on October 18th. The Work Group identified a number of recommendations concerning the eventual transition to a managed care or Special Needs Plan, in the areas of finance and contracting with managed care plans; eligibility; performance metrics/evaluation; children, youth, and family; peer services; and Health Homes. Representatives appointed to the Behavioral Health Work Group who are also Coalition members were: Wendy Brennan, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)-NYC Metro, Donna Colonna, Executive Director, Services for the UnderServed & President of The Coalition; Tino Hernandez, President & CEO, Samaritan Village; Gail Nayowith, Executive Director, SCO Family of Services; and Phillip A. Saperia, Executive Director of The Coalition. In a separate venue, members continue to pursue the design and delivery of specialty services for children and their families. Gail Nayowith is chairing this group with the able collaboration of OMH’s Kristin Riley, Deputy Commissioner for children and family services.

The Affordable Housing Work Group

The Affordable Housing Work Group met for the first time on October 24th. This group is examining the availability and adequacy of New York State’s supportive housing programs, in order to make sure that individuals are not improperly institutionalized or denied appropriate care and services. The workgroup will identify barriers to the efficient use of supportive housing, and make recommendations to overcome them. In addition, the group will look for opportunities to invest new resources into supportive housing to create Medicaid savings and quality service improvements. At the meeting, DOH, OPWDD, OMH, OASAS, OTDA & HCR reported on the range of supportive housing programs overseen or operated by the State. It was followed by a presentation  from Ted Houghton, Executive Director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York (SHNNY) that focused on housing issues from the perspective of providers. The next meeting is scheduled for November 10th.  Representatives from The Coalition are: Donna Colonna, Executive Director of Services for the UnderServed & President of The Coalition; Tony Hannigan, Executive Director, Center for Urban Community Services; Tino Hernandez, Chief Executive Officer, Samaritan Village; Bobby Watts, Executive Director, Care for the Homeless; and Jason Lippman, Senior Associate for Policy and Advocacy of The Coalition.

Health Disparities Work Group

The Health Disparities Work Group released its final recommendations October 20th, with some proposals related to behavioral health. They are:

Enhanced Services for Youth in Transition with Psychiatric Disabilities: Comprehensive programs should be created to serve youth in transition with psychiatric disabilities be developed across all systems of care including foster care, school populations that have youth with a Serious Emotional Disorder diagnosis and the juvenile justice population to ensure that youth with psychiatric disabilities do not end up homeless or in the criminal justice system.

Promote Full Access to Medicaid Mental Health Medications: Actions should be taken to ensure that all Medicaid recipients who are in managed care plans where the pharmacy benefit is no longer carved out continue to have full access to mental health medications.

Medicaid Coverage of Syringe Access and Harm Reduction Activities: Steps should be taken to promote and address health care needs of persons with chemical dependency including allowing medical providers to prescribe syringes to prevent disease transmission; allowing harm reduction therapy as an appropriate and reimbursable treatment modality in OASAS facilities and by authorizing NYS DOH AIDS Institute Syringe Exchange providers to be reimbursed by Medicaid for harm reduction/syringe exchange program services provided to Medicaid eligible individuals.

Other Work Groups

  • The Payment Reform and Quality Measures Workgroup met on October 18th.  Their meeting materials include a presentation on the group's objectives and a draft of principles for the categorization of at-risk vital access providers (VAPs).
  • The Managed Long Term Care Implementation and Waiver Redesign Work Group released its interim report October 20th. They will meet next on October 27th at the United Hospital Fund, 1411 Broadway (btw. W. 39th and W. 40th Streets) 12th floor, in Manhattan.
  • The Program Streamlining and State/Local Responsibilities Work Group released their final recommendations on October 17th. 


Coalition Signs-on to Help Protect Medicaid

The Coalition has signed-on to a letter drafted by the National Council to the Congressional “Super Committee.” It asks them not to cut, block grant or take any other actions that would strip funding from Medicaid. The so called bicameral and bipartisan super committee consists of 12 legislators charged with proposing at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction measures over the next ten years. We encourage you to lend your voice to the fight for Medicaid by signing on to the National Council’s letter today! The deadline for signatures is October 28, 2011.


Super Committee Democrats Propose Deficit Reduction Plan

On Wednesday, October 26, 2011, Democratic members of the “super committee” disclosed a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit by $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion over the next 10 years, according to Reuters. The plan would call for deficit reduction measures that include revenue increases and spending cuts. It was reported that the $200 billion to $300 billion in new economic stimulus spending would be included, which would be paid for from lower interest payments from reducing the overall debt level. In addition, about $400 billion in Medicare cuts is being proposed (half from benefit reductions, and half from healthcare provider cuts). This plan has not been released to the public yet, but was unveiled during a closed-door meeting of the deficit reduction committee, which is tasked with proposing at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction measures over the next 10 years, by November 23rd.


Preserving HUD Funding

A New York Times editorial on Wednesday, October 26, 2011, entitled “A Foolish Time to Cut Housing Aid” stated that most of HUD’s budget is spent on low-income programs for the poor, elderly and disabled.  The article also mentions that during a time when more funding is needed, President Obama has proposed to keep HUD’s FY 2012 funding level at $41.7 billion. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives and Senate have proposed substantial cuts to HUD’s budget. The House bill would reduce HUD’s funding to $38.1 billion (a 7% cut), and the Senate would cut it further to $36.9 billion (a 10% cut). With anticipation that Congress will make its final resolutions on HUD’s budget early next week, The Coalition urges you to call your Senators and Congressional Representatives to advocate against the proposed cuts to HUD’s budget. Tell them to fund HUD’s budget at the level requested by the President: $41.7 billion. Emphasize that the following programs related to supportive housing need to be fully funded: HOME at $1.65 billion, McKinney-Vento program at $2.4 billion, and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers at $19.2 billion.

Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act

The Supreme Court could decide this November whether or not it will begin a review on the constitutionality of the provision in the Affordable Care Act that will mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance. The Court was asked by the Obama Administration and 5 opponents of the healthcare reform law. In a previous issue of Coalition Briefs, we reported to you that two federal courts of appeals have reached opposing decisions on the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). On August 12, 2011, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. Earlier this year, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld the individual mandate. These contradictory rulings increase the likelihood that healthcare reform issue will be considered by the Supreme Court in the next session.


Clarity Still Needed on Essential Benefits for Behavioral Health

The Open Minds Circle provided an account of the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Essential Health Benefits: Balancing Coverage and Cost report. The IOM report did not provide the expected amount of clarity related to essential coverage for behavioral health treatment. Advocacy groups had called for the inclusion of essential behavioral health benefits in commercial health insurance benchmark plans to be made available through the insurance exchanges in 2014. Instead, the report only went as far as defining the initial EHB package to be equal to the scope of what could be purchased by small employers today, modified to include ten required categories: ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, reahabilitative and habilitative services and devices, laboratory services, preventative and wellness services and chronic disease management, and pediatric services (including oral and vision care).


With Amerigroup Purchase of Health Plus, Size Matters

Crain’s New York reported Amerigroup’s purchase of Health Plus at $85 million. According to Crain’s, it makes sense for Amerigroup to expand now, with Medicaid Redesign proposals on their way. Under the proposed new changes to the Medicaid system, plans will find better opportunities to make efficiencies under Medicaid managed care, which will add many new populations to the system, like people who are chronically ill and those in need of long term care.


Center Trainings in November

Introduction to Benefits Management Training at The Center

This free half-day training is offered in various locations across the city, designed for clinicians and other staff interested in learning the nuts and bolts of benefits management. The latest changes in SSA guidelines will also be discussed. Participants will have the opportunity to: Understand the fundamentals of the Social Security System; Comprehend the difference between SSI, SSDI, Medicaid and Medicare; Gain knowledge of resources that support consumers in their living and working goals; Learn how to help consumers effectively use benefits to support their recovery. This training will be facilitated by Margie Staker and Patricia Feinberg, MS. Register now »

Date & Locations:
November 3, 2011 l Time: 1 - 4:30pm @ SUS
November 10, 2011 l Time: 1:30 - 5:00pm @ Odyssey House
November 17, 2011 l Time: 1:00 - 4:30pm @ Postgraduate Center for Mental Health

Leading Groups: An Introduction

This full-day training is designed for mental health practitioners who seek to harness the power of groups to support individuals in their recovery. The training may be of particular interest to providers of Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) since group work is the main service modality in PROS programs.

Participants will be introduced to theoretical concepts and fundamental skills essential for leading various types of groups, including knowledge-based, skills-based and therapy groups. The focus will be on developing group dynamics that engage and empower group members, motivate them to achieve personal goals and help the group as a whole recover. Through didactic and experiential learning, participants will acquire the skills they need to plan and lead groups that are meaningful and alive. Register now »

Facilitator: Aaron Vieira, LMSW
Date:  November 30, 2011
Time:  9:30am – 4:30pm
Location: The Center for Rehabilitation and Recovery


Around the Water Cooler

Bruce Feig, Deputy Executive Director of the NYS Office of Mental Health will be retiring (once again). During his tenure, Bruce Feig has played a strong role in program design and redesign, shifting the operations at OMH during all of the trends and policies that have taken place in mental health over the years. He plans to leave OMH in one month. We will miss him and send our best wishes.

Daliah Heller, Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care, and Treatment (BADUPCT), will be leaving DOHMH on November 10th to do policy and organizing work on substance use, medicine, and health. Since 2007, when she assumed the leadership of BADUPCT, Dr. Heller has promoted a public health approach to drug and alcohol use and made progress in preventing the adverse consequences of substance use.  Dr. Nathan Graber, currently the Director of the Environmental and Occupational Disease Epidemiology Program in the Division of Environmental Health, will serve as Acting Assistant Commissioner.   

ASAP logoThe 13th annual conference of the Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of NYS, Inc. (ASAP) will be held at the New York Marriot at the Brooklyn Bridge from October 30 to November 2, 2011. The conference theme, "Behavioral Healthcare in Transition: Positioning Ourselves for Success" provides the opportunity to learn more about the challenges ahead and identify strategies for moving forward. As a special courtesy, ASAP is offering Coalition members the special ASAP membership rate to attend this conference.

The Advisory Council of Queens Children’s Psychiatric Center presents the 35th Lauretta Brender Annual Lecture and Conference on Tuesday, November 8th from 8:00 to 3:15.  The Honored Lecturer and Keynote Speaker will be Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., who will speak about helping traumatized children cope with life. For more information please call (718) 264-4579 or email Marie.Longenencker@omh.ny.gov.

OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez was named among the top 100 “influentials” in the Hispanic Business Magazine. This issue was published in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley will run in the New York City Marathon on November 6th. This will be Commissioner Farley’s 17th marathon, but the 4th in New York City.

Michael Stoller of the Human Services Council will be honored by the New York Communities Organizing Fund, Inc. (NYCOFI) in celebrating the work done by New York Communities for Change (NYCC) in the fight for Social Justice, Housing, Education and Worker’s Rights. He will be honored along with other distinguished individuals: Hon. Kirsten Gillibrand, US Senator, Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU, Héctor J. Figueroa, 32BJ and George Gresham,1199.  The event will be held on Thursday, November 10th at 6:30 pm. For more information contact Jim at 212-239-7323 or Jim@theadvancegroup.com.   

Dr. Petros Levounis of the Addiction Institute received a Westy Award from the West Side Spirit. The Westy Awards are highlighted in the October 20th publication of the newspaper to honor the neighborhood heroes who make the Upper West Side a better place to live. Dr. Levounis is also a beloved faculty member of the Coalition's Professional Learning Center.

Member News

Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) was awarded an Innovative Senior Center (ISC) contract to open the nation's first full-time center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. SAGE the country's oldest and largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. The SAGE Center, slated to open in January 2012, will include program sites in all five New York City boroughs—bringing a comprehensive array of services and support to LGBT elders throughout the City.

Comunilife celebrated the grand opening of its newest residential building, Prospect Residence, on October 7th. This innovative, affordable and supportive residence with 60 studio apartments located at 780 Prospect Avenue in the Bronx will provide a home to 35 persons with special needs, who are 55 and older, as well as 25 low-income seniors from the community. All of the units include kitchenettes and private bathrooms. Other amenities include a 24/7 staffed security desk, staff offices, a cafeteria, solarium, outdoor sitting area and a planning garden for residents. The building will incorporate Enterprise Green Communities Criteria, a comprehensive set of guidelines to encourage green building practices by developers of affordable housing.

Unique People Services (UPS) hosted its first benefit reception and silent auction celebrating 20 years of providing services to people with HIV/AIDS, mental illness and developmental disabilities. The event was held on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at The Riverside Church in New York City.

Safe Space
announces the Grand Opening of its newly renovated Far Rockaway site at 1600 Central Avenue. This is Safe Space’s third community-based "hub" location serving the Southeast Queens community, joining the Jamaica and Richmond Hill locations to provide quality family support, mental health and child/youth14,000 people annually.


The Coalition Remembers Our Own Judeth H. Podell: January 30, 1917 to October 1, 2011

"Judeth was part of The Coalition even before I started here 18 years ago. Our success as an organization is in no small measure due to her labors, her big heart and helping hands. We, her colleagues and friends, are among the legions who will miss her." - Phillip A. Saperia, CEO of  The Coalition.

We can best honor Judeth Podell's memory by using the words of her family to describe this wonderful woman.

Judeth H. Podell was born in New York City, educated in its public schools, at City College (B.A.) and NYU (M.A.). In 1945 she married Odif, and kept him on his toes during their 57 years together. In that same year, she, Odif and a few carefully chosen relatives and friends formed Usonia Homes, an innovative community dedicated to modern architecture and progressive politics. Usonia was a lifelong passion, home and commitment for her. She died in the house she’d build and lived in for 66 years.

A woman of unbounded energy and enthusiasm for life, deeply opinionated about people and passionate about ideas, Judy was in a class by herself: a tireless hostess, heated conversationalist and – in her heyday – a master chef. Well into her eighties, Judy would take the train and subway into the City, several days a week, to volunteer at The Coalition. People often remarked at her uncanny energy and seeming disregard for the aging process. She hadn’t discovered the fountain of youth, but something more special: a deep well-spring of optimism, openness, and desire to remain usefully engaged with the world, which nourished an extraordinary life for nearly a century. Long before ‘staying connected’ became a leading slogan of the electronic age, Judy understood that connecting with people, young and old alike, was essential for meaningful life. Among an encyclopedia of possible entries, one Judy story stands out as emblematic of her remarkable concern for people. In the early 1960s, she co-owned a pottery and gift shop in Pleasantville. The store soon went bankrupt, as Judy gave away untold quantities of merchandise to friends and others. Her partner went on to create Pottery Barn; Judy built communities, found jobs for the highly challenged and made sandwiches for strangers.


Coalition Job Board

Coalition Members advertise staff positions for free on The Coalition’s Job Board!  Here's a sample:

Job #  Job Title
6236 Temporary Intake Specialist Social Worker - Parole Restoration Program
6238 Therapeutic Activities Specialist / Fitness Instructor

Program Director - Mental Health Supported Housing Program


Licensed Psychiatrist - Consultant

6249 Computer Lab Monitor
6261 Residence Coordinator


Coalition Member Sponsored Events

Coalition Members advertise Events for free on The Coalition’s Member Sponsored Event Board

Date  Event Title

Advancing E/Quality Care: From policy into practice




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