An Evolving Semi-Monthly Update on Community Behavioral Health in New York
July 10, 2014
On July 10, 2014, Gary S. Belkin, MD, PhD, MPH was appointed as Executive Deputy Commissioner for Mental Hygiene of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene after an exhaustive nationwide search.
Dr. Belkin’s comes to DOHMH from his position as Senior Director for Psychiatric Services at the NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation. His career has involved progressive responsibility in policy and systems development for public health and mental health services in US urban settings, including at Bellevue Hospital Center where he served as Deputy Director of the Department of Psychiatry.
Dr. Belkin is also is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine.
He has particular experience in the historical context of medical patents, mental health theories, and ethical issues. His residency was at Massachusetts General Hospital and he has held an appointment at Harvard Medical School for many years. Dr. Belkin has been involved in several projects aimed at extending the uses of community-based mental health strategies in New York City and internationally, and exploring the degree they can be used for larger social policy and public health purposes.
The Coalition welcomes Dr. Belkin to his new position and looks forward to working with him as a partner in this challenging environment.
We want to thank Dr. Hillary Kunins, Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner for Mental Hygiene, for all of her good work.
In a letter signed by Phillip Saperia, CEO, and Tino Hernandez, President, and dated July 8, 2014, The Coalition congratulated the Governor for signing a package of bills to combat New York State’s opioid epidemic of heroin and prescription drug use. The bills, which were discussed in the last edition of Briefs, run the gamut from insurance reforms to improved treatment options for individuals suffering from heroin and opioid addiction; measures to strengthen penalties and put in place additional tools for law enforcement to crack down on the distribution of illegal drugs; provisions to ensure the proper and safe use of Naloxone, an overdose antidote; and support for enhanced public awareness campaigns to prevent drug abuse.
The letter states that, “[t]he programmatic expansions and insurance reforms that you and the Legislature adopted provide…[an] effective response, and once again put place New York State at the forefront of our nation’s efforts to combat addiction.”
The Coalition also thanked the following State Legislators for introducing, sponsoring and shepherding the bills through to enactment: Senator David Carlucci, Chair, Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Senator Phil Boyle, Chair, Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Senator Kemp Hannon, Chair, Committee on Health, Senator James L. Seward, Assistant Majority Leader and Chair, Committee on Insurance, Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, Temporary President and Majority Coalition Leader, Senator Dean G. Skelos, Temporary President and Majority Coalition Leader, Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, Chair, Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Assemblymember Aileen M. Gunther, Chair, Committee on Mental Health, Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried, Chair, Committee on Health Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill, Chair, Committee on Insurance, Assemblymember Sheldon Silver, Speaker.
The Coalition looks forward to working with OASAS, the designated lead agency, to successfully implement these new laws.
In a resounding victory for behavioral health service rights, NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on July 19, 2014 that a settlement agreement had been reached between his office and Emblem Health. Provoking the settlement was an investigation by the Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau that found since at least 2011, EmblemHealth, through its behavioral health subcontractor, Value Options, issued 64% more denials of coverage in behavioral health cases than in medical cases.
The Attorney General’s investigation also revealed that before 2014, EmblemHealth did not cover residential treatment for behavioral health conditions for 1.4 million of its members while covering similar treatment--skilled nursing, for example--for medical conditions.
Additionally, EmblemHealth improperly denied coverage of substance abuse out-patient rehabilitation, because the member was not experiencing “life-threatening withdrawal.” A withdrawal is not required for substance abuse rehabilitation. In fact, people who are suffering from life-threatening withdrawal require a more intensive level of care than out-patient rehabilitation, including medically managed inpatient detoxification. EmblemHealth also denied requests for coverage of substance abuse rehabilitation treatment through application of “fail first” requirements, i.e. the member had not recently failed an outpatient program.
Under the settlement agreement, mental health and substance abuse treatment claims dating back to 2011 will be independently reviewed. The Attorney General's Office calculates that some $31 million in treatment costs could be recovered by up to 15,000 members. EmblemHealth will also pay a civil penalty of $1.2 million.
EmblemHealth also agreed to cover residential treatment for behavioral health conditions for all of its 3.4 million members and to completely revamp its claims review process.
Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) awarded a total of $150,000 in grants to parishes who are operating Food Pantries or Food Assistance Programs. CCBQ operates a network of 20 food pantries. Last year, CCBQ’s pantries helped distribute more than 1 million meals to more than 115,000 people within the Diocese.
The FEGS Health & Human Services Board of Directors elected Allen Alter to serve as the organization’s Board President. Mr. Alter is an Emmy Award winning producer and veteran of CBS News. He has served on the FEGS Board since 1988.
Colleague and longtime friend of The Coalition, Richard Altman has announced he will be retiring in June of 2015 as CEO of the Jewish Child Care Association after 35 years with the agency.
Coalition Member, EAC, Inc., was one of ten Long Island-based non-profits that was awarded a grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation (BOACF). Founded in 1969, EAC is a human service agency with a network of 70 programs throughout Long Island and New York City. Last year EAC Network helped over 57,400 people of all ages. The total amount of awards distributed by BOACF was $250,000.
FEGS Health & Human Services was awarded a $925,000 grant from the Robin Hood Foundation to develop a new, integrated care model to improve health outcomes and reduce poverty among adults and children with mental illness living in New York City. Strategic partners who will play a critical role in this initiative include: Mount Sinai Medical Center; Bronx Lebanon Health System; NYU McSilver Center, Healthfirst; the Institute for Family Health; and PSCH.
Gayle M. Horowitz was named Chief Administrative Officer of FEGS Health & Human Services. Ms. Horwitz will be responsible for a broad portfolio including overseeing all administrative and infrastructure resources for the organization and new business venture development covering a broad range of areas including: technology; human resources; procurement; real estate; facilities and risk management. Most recently, she was the CEO of Nardello & Co. a leading international investigations firm.
On June 30, 2014, Fortune Society Senior Vice President Stanley Richards was honored at the White House during the “Champions of Change” ceremony—for individuals who are doing extraordinary work to facilitate employment opportunities for individuals formerly involved in the justice system. According to the White House, “The Champions have distinguished themselves through their extraordinary dedication and hard work to help those with criminal records re-enter society with dignity and viable employment opportunities.” The Fortune Society is a new member of the Coalition.
Amanda Saake, Senior Program Associate for The Coalition’s Center for Rehabilitation and Recovery, has been formally invited to join the Certification Commission for Psychiatric Rehabilitation’s (CPRP) Board of Subject Matter Experts of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. The CPRB Board of Subject Masters provides advice and consultation to the Test Oversight Committee (the body that oversees exam development) on developing this year’s CPRP credentialing exam. Amanda’s Coalition colleagues say, “go Amanda!”
Coalition Members advertise staff positions for free on The Coalition’s Job Board! Here's a sample: