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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
             January 17, 2014

Dr. Mary Bassett - New DOHMH Commissioner

The Coalition welcomes Mayor de Blasio’s appointment of Dr. Mary Bassett as the new Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  We look forward to working with her and her staff on our challenging and very full agenda.  

Mary Bassett. (Photo: Columbia University School of Public Health)As a former Department Deputy Commissioner, from 2002 to 2009, we have every expectation that she will hit the ground running. She helped create special offices in the NYC neighborhoods of Harlem, Central Brooklyn and the Bronx, all challenged by poverty and health problems.  Her other work was with programs that addressed non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health.

Dr. Bassett comes immediately from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, where she directed the African Health Initiative, which worked to strengthen health systems in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

As we welcome a new Commissioner, we join our colleagues in wishing continuing success and good fortune to departing Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.


Coalition’s Annual Conference w/ Keynote Patrick Kennedy is “Sold Out!”

The Coalition is excitingly looking forward to our annual conference “Rising to the Challenge” on January 23, 2014. We are thrilled to have as our keynote speaker this year, former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy. As a member of Congress, Representative Kennedy championed the Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act when it was signed into law five years ago, and worked with the Obama administration to get the long awaited final parity rule issued.

Joining our keynote speaker, will be a top quality set of key State and City government officials who are tasked with launching major systemic changes and new models in behavioral healthcare, not the least is the transformation to managed care and the implementation of Health Homes. Confirmed speakers include Jason A. Helgerson, Medicaid Director at the NYS Department of Health (DOH), Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, Commissioner of the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Use Services (OASAS), Ann Marie Sullivan, M.D., Acting Commissioner of the NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) and Adam Karpati, M.D., Executive Deputy Commissioner at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

In addition, we will have a lineup of panel discussions with representatives from managed care companies (Beacon Health Strategies, Healthfirst, OptumHealth), and behavioral health providers, (ICL, VIP Community Services and Project Renewal.) The conference will be facilitated by Bruce E. Feig, Consultant for Sachs Policy Group (and former Executive Deputy Commissioner at OMH). Look for coverage and a full recap of the day’s events in the next edition of Coalition Briefs.


Governor Cuomo Delivers 2014 State of the State Address

On January 8, 2014, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo outlined his 2014 agenda in the Governor’s State of the State speech, where he spoke about a number of initiatives related to tax reform, economic development, education and public safety. While the Governor did not specifically focus on behavioral health policy, there were a few items covered that relate to the community-based nonprofit sector, including:

  • Beginning the casino gambling RFP process in March. The first 4 destination casinos will be located in upstate New York.
  • Raising the age from 16 to 18 that juveniles may be tried as adults.
  • Cracking down on drunk driving by proposing 5 year license revocation for 2 DWI or DWAI convictions within 3 years.
  • Creating a prisoner re-entry council to help transition former inmates back into mainstream society and reduce recidivism.
  • Allowing medical marijuana in up to 20 hospitals statewide for patients who meet certain criteria.
  • A $100M investment in affordable housing to preserve 3,000 units in multi-family developments.

We anticipate more details when the 2014-2015 Executive Budget is released next week, on January 21, 2014. In addition, the NYS Legislature has released a joint hearing schedule on the budget, with mental hygiene policies being covered on February 11, 2014.


New City Council Leadership Begins to Take Shape

On January 8, 2014, all 51 members of the City Council voted unanimously to elect Melissa Mark-Viverito as Speaker. The Coalition congratulates the new Speaker on winning this historic and decisive victory. Speaker Mark-Viverito then appointed Council Member Brad Lander to be the Chair of the Council's Rules, Privileges and Elections Committee. Ranking members appointed to Rules, Privileges and Elections also include City Council Members Rafael L. Espinal, Margaret Chin, Deborah Rose, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Speaker Mark-Viverito. The Coalition cheers all of their appointments and looks forward to working with the emerging Council leadership. It is in this Committee that the composition of Council leadership is generally shaped, along with standing committee membership assignments. The Coalition is hopeful that a standing committee on behavioral health policy will be reconvened with a knowledgeable and passionate chair. We believe that in the next couple of weeks, more clarity will be known about the new City Council leadership and Committee positions.


Public Figures Speak Up About Their Addiction and Recovery

In a New York Times Op-Ed, former Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson reflects on his battles outside of the ring with addiction. In “Fighting to Kick the Habit,” Tyson reflects on his struggles to remain engaged in recovery and a determination for positive behavioral change. According to Tyson, “even though I possessed incredible discipline when it came to boxing, I didn’t have the tools to stop my slide into addiction.”

Chiara de Blasio (Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter) bravely spoke about her experiences with drug and alcohol abuse, and depression in an inspiring video to reach out to individuals facing similar problems. We believe that this personal account from within the de Blasio family eloquently signifies a thoughtful and humanistic approach to behavioral health issues as the next administration forms its ideas and policies on mental health and substance use services.


Misperceptions Persist on ‘Link’ Between Mental Illness & Violence

While headlines in newspapers and commentary on talk shows seem to appear daily, addressing the latest episode of gun violence in our country, an unseemly connection between these tragic incidents and mental illness is being portrayed. We therefore feel it important to reinforce the fact that the link between mental illness and violence is a weak one. In fact, only a very small proportion (about 4%) of violent crimes is committed by persons with mental illness. Left out of the discussion is strengthening our gun controls laws to prevent any individual from easily accessing deadly weapons and accumulating massive amounts of ammunition. This would surely go a long way towards reducing violence, killings and suicide.

Sensationalizing mental illness with violence in the media and other institutions perpetuates stigma. It causes the public to become more unreasonably frightened of people with mental illness, and individuals pursuing recovery are less likely to seek treatment out of their own fear of being stigmatized. Here is an article from Psychiatric News that summarizes a recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that, among other things, shows that “researchers found no relation between the presence of psychiatric disorders and the use of firearms.


Trainings at The Coalition

You can check out and register for the latest trainings being offered at The Coalition’s Center for Rehabilitation and Recovery and our Professional Learning Center online. Upcoming seminars include trainings on Managed Care - Quality Measures on April 15th and Psychiatric Rehabilitation 101 and Skills Development on February 12th.


Around the Water Cooler

Rose Duhan was appointed by Governor Cuomo this week to serve as Assistant Secretary for Health. Ms. Duhan previously served as Director of Government Programs at the New York Health Plan Association. She also served as a Senior Budget Analyst for Albany County. Ms. Duhan earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health Policy and Administration from the University of Michigan and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. The Coalition looks forward to working with Ms. Duham and meeting her in her newly appointed role.

Congratulations to former Coalition Board member Martha Adams Sullivan, DSW, on her appointment as Executive Director of Gouverneur Health at NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC). Most recently, Dr. Sullivan was the Executive Director of Fordham-Tremont Community Mental Health Clinic, a Coalition member. Dr. Sullivan has also served in several senior level management positions in hospitals, community based organizations and government, including previously as Director of Gouverneur’s Behavioral Health program.

Kathryn D. Haslanger, Chief Executive Officer of JASA (Jewish Association Serving the Aging), was elected to the Commonwealth Fund Board of Directors on January 7, 2014. Haslanger has spent more than 30 years in health care policy, research, and delivery, holding leadership roles in organizations dedicated to ensuring access to health care for New Yorkers. JASA, a New York-based nonprofit, serves more than 53,000 older adults each year through its housing and home health divisions.

CASES was one of 23 agencies across the State to receive a grant from the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) for alternatives to incarceration (ATI), alternatives to jail detention and programs for individuals incarcerated in local jails. This $300K award will be used to create a short-term ATI program called CASES/Manhattan START Community Case Management to target chronic misdemeanants in New York County Criminal Court, including men and women with mental illness, trauma and/or substance use disorders.

Westchester Jewish Community Services' (WJCS) Center Lane program has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Westchester Community Foundation to expand its services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the county. The grant provides for individual and group counseling using an evidence-based approach, drop-in hours, educational workshops and services that are shown to reduce risky behaviors and promote healthy lifestyle choices. The funding will help to support the expansion of services beyond Yonkers and White Plains into Northern Westchester County.


Coalition Job Board

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

Job #  Job Title
7508 Job Developer/Education and Employment Specialist
7510 Assistant Rehabilitation Specialist

Quality Improvement Specialist


Vice President of Human Resources


Social Worker - Court-based Intervention & Resource Team

7529 Intake Services Coordinator (Central Intake)
7532 Clinical Social Worker, LCSW Bilingual Spanish - Immediate Opening - Bronx PROS



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