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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
            March 12, 2015

New York Attorney General Strikes a Blow for Behavioral Health Parity

In a press release dated March 5, 2015, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a settlement with Beacon Health Options (formerly known as ValueOptions) requiring the managed care company to dramatically reform its claims review process and pay a $900,000 penalty. The settlement resolves allegations of widespread violations of mental health parity laws by the company, which serves a total of 45 million consumers across all 50 states. An investigation by the Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau found that ValueOptions issued denials twice as often for behavioral health claims as insurers did for other medical or surgical claims and four times as often for addiction recovery services.

The Coalition is extremely pleased with the result here and thanks the Attorney General and his staff for its work to reach the settlement as well as highlighting the important issue of behavioral health parity. We hope the settlement with Beacon Health Options will be an accurate predictor for the fate of preauthorizations of behavioral health visits in the wider managed care rollout.


The Coalition Devotes 2 Days to Albany; Advocating for its Behavioral Health Agenda

On February 9th and 10th, The Coalition hosted its Annual Albany Days. A cohort of 25 Coalition leaders and staff met with the Governor’s Office, OMH, OASAS, DOH, visited more than 20 State legislators’ offices as well as Assembly Ways & Means and Senate Finance staffs.

Coalition representatives represented nearly the entire range of our membership including Article 31 and 822 clinics, residential treatment, children’s services and supportive housing, clubhouses, criminal justice agencies, homeless service providers and affiliate members, including a non-profit health plan and a pharmaceutical company.

The Coalition’s agenda emphasized, among other issues, proposals related to behavioral health’s mandated transition to Medicaid managed care. Specific agenda items included:

  • DOH, OMH and OASAS should develop contract templates delineate a scope of services available in the benefit packages offered by MMCOs.
  • Contract templates should implement standardized billing, authorizations, claims procedures, documentation requirements and appeals processes.
  • Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MMCO) should be prevented from requiring preauthorizations for access to behavioral health clinic treatment services on parity with primary care services
  • NYS must enforce APG rates for behavioral health clinic treatment services for the time frame in which they are required
  • All MMCO billing and staffing guidelines for clinic treatment services should strictly adhere to all applicable regulations
  • NYS must stringently enforce prompt payment rules
  • As the very complex system of care for children, adolescents and families moves toward managed care, the State should adopt rigorous, senior, adult, child and youth-focused behavioral health metrics that monitor plan and network access and performance, ensure high quality care and gauge short and long-term outcomes; commit to periodically convening plans, networks and providers to work with State and local government to publicly issue reports on utilization, capacity and other quality and performance measures
  • APG rates with an inflation adjuster should be continued until 2020, unless and until the Commissioners of the Office of Mental Health, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the Department of Health together develop and certify an alternative Value Based Payment methodology that is actuarially sound and will provide reimbursement to providers at rates that are at least comparable to current Medicaid rates (APGs) and
  • Add $100 million to the budget to create a pool of funds to address provider cash flow issues stemming from transition to Medicaid Managed Care.

This section of The Coalition’s agenda has been converted to Article VII language so that it may be adopted by the legislature as a budget bill. Otherwise, it could be delayed until the post-budget period to be passed as a “standalone” bill.

The Coalition’s agenda also included some issues not related Medicaid managed care, such as:

  • Creating 30,000 units of supportive housing under a NY/NY 4 initiative
  • Delaying the e-prescriptions mandate for one year
  • Extending the unlicensed practice exemption to 2020 and
  • Added funding for OMH licensed and non-licensed supportive housing.

Although we had many appointments and were occasionally spread a little thin, everyone consistently stayed on message. Ellen Wageman of Catholic Charities said, “This was one of the best Albany Days I can recall. We we’re all in synch and no one used the opportunity to promote an individual agency’s interests.”

The trip was well-timed, as the Governor’s Executive Budget had been released just prior to the visit. The Coalition’s analysis of the budget proposal can be found here.

We thank our members who were in attendance and those who provided advice but could not make the trip. The Coalition is following-up with legislators and agency staff to continue pushing our agenda until the session concludes. We hope that our efforts on the ground in Albany and from New York City will lead to a successful outcome.

While some of our priorities have not appeared in the Assembly’s “one-house” budget bills and as we review the Senate’s bills, there are still opportunities, including post-budget, to continue to advocate for our agenda.


Bills Delaying the E-Prescription Mandate Passes NYS Legislature, signed by Governor Cuomo

The legislation, S.2486 (Hannon)/A.4274 (McDonald), delays for one year provisions which require e-prescribing of medications beginning March 27, 2015.

Many providers have not been able to obtain certification by the Drug Enforcement Agency (due to delays on the part of the Agency) and have not secured contracts for e-prescribing software. Moving the effective date to March 27, 2016, will allow providers sufficient time to prepare for implementation.

This bill is part of the Coalition’s Albany Agenda and we have issued a Memorandum in Support of its passage. We are very pleased it has been enacted.


NYS Senator Martin Golden and Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz Introduce Legislation Providing for Reinvestment of Funds into Community-Based Services

Two Brooklyn-based legislators, NYS Senator Martin Golden and Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, have introduced a bill, S.3229/A.828, which proposes to reinvest funds generated by savings due to declines in the State prison census into community-based services for persons suffering from chemical dependence.

The bill would utilize savings created by Rockefeller Drug Law Reform to strengthen base funding for existing community-based alcoholism and substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. The full continuum of OASAS licensed, certified or approved alcoholism and substance abuse treatment, prevention and vocational services will be supported by the reinvestment fund. Treatment services would include outpatient, day treatment, inpatient, residential, emergency and crisis services, detoxification (inpatient and community-based), methadone and other pharmacotherapy, halfway houses and supportive living, aftercare services, services for homeless chemically addicted persons, services for persons with dual disorders, services for chemically-addicted persons with and/or at risk for or HIV infection, HIV-related illness or AIDS and other hard to serve populations. Core treatment services, monitoring and reporting progress to the courts and necessary ancillary services will be eligible for support.

The Coalition strongly supports this legislation and urges that it be enacted.


OASAS and Governor Cuomo’s Office Announce Third Phase of Statewide Campaign to Combat Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse

The campaign includes messages on billboards, posters, online advertisements, social media and commercials that will be aired across the state for four weeks. The messaging warns that alcohol overuse and abuse of prescription opioid medications are often a gateway to heroin use, and refers those who need help to New York State's 24-hour addiction HOPEline.

OASAS encourages us to share the information about prevention, treatment and recovery that is posted on the #CombatHeroin website and the State's HOPEline number, 1-877-846-7369, with your friends and colleagues. The posters, billboards, PSAs and fact sheets (in different languages) can also be shared by visiting the #CombatHeroin website. To share information about anti-opioid overdose training, visit this link.


The Coalition Urges Assembly Speaker Heastie to Support NY/NY IV Proposal

In a letter dated, February 25, 2015, The Coalition strongly urged new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to support the Campaign 4 NY/NY proposal to build 30,000 units of supportive housing over the next 10 years. The Campaign 4 NY/NY includes The Coalition, the Supportive Housing Network of New York, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Homeless Services United and many other advocates for supportive housing.

Although the 30,000 units did not end up in the Assembly’s “one-house” budget bills, its prime sponsor, Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi told Briefs that the momentum is building and he expects to make more progress in next year’s budget.


Around the Water Cooler


ASCNYC (Allied Service Center NYC) opened new and expanded program offices in Midtown at 64 West 35th Street, 3rd floor, between 5th and 6th Avenues. Congratulations on finding a new home!

Herbert Barish, former President and CEO of the Lower Eastside Service Center (LESC) passed away on February 4th. He served with LESC in a variety of positions for more than 50 years, virtually since its founding, starting out as a social work intern doing street outreach with former gang members from the organization's first tiny office on Henry Street. He took over as CEO in 2005 and led the agency for seven years. A longtime member of The Coalition, Herb will be missed.

Cara Berkowitz joined JBFCS as Senior Director of Government Relations. Cara served for the past five years as Director of City & Federal Affairs for UJA-Federation and before that as a Legislative Analyst for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She has a strong background in health policy and managed care through her work for Rabin Strategic Partners as well as prior positions at the Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative, Lehman Brothers and the office of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg. Cara has a JD from American University and a BA from Washington University. We are pleased to offer a big welcome to our colleague.

The Bridge received a $25,000 grant from the Burpee Foundation for its Urban Farm Horticultural Program. This grant will be used to continue supporting The Bridge’s three Urban Farms, one in the Bronx and two in East Harlem in Manhattan, as well as to expand Greenhouse capability during the winter months. 

Callen-Lorde Community Health Center has appointed Wendy Stark its executive director after Jay Laudato announced his departure from the Manhattan-based FQHC serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Ms. Stark, who served as executive director from 2007 to 2012, previously was senior vice president for special populations and administration at Lutheran Family Health Centers in Brooklyn. Welcome back, Wendy, to our world. Best wishes to Jay Laudato in his next professional life.

CASES and Palladia (now part of SUS) were among several agencies sharing $1.6 million in capital funding from the Community Resilience Fun that will fund specific plans to improve the long-term stability

The Children's Aid Society has received an award of $2.3 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention grants. Spread over five years, the grants will finance a wide range of practical and educational programming at Children's Aid locations, all designed to promote healthy food choices on a limited budget and active lifestyles.

Donna Colonna (SUS) and Fern Zagor (Staten Island Mental Health Services) were quoted in a Crain’s Business New York article on Medicaid managed care. The article can be found here: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20150201/HEALTH_CARE/302019995/nonprofits-are-key-to-medicaid-reform

Concern for Independent Living has been awarded $312,134 from The Home Depot Foundation to support the Concern Ronkonkoma veterans’ housing project.

Coalition member, Episcopal Social Services (ESS) has changed its name to Sheltering Arms. Prior to the name change, ESS named Jane Golden, JD, LMSW, to be the new Chief Program Officer. Golden will oversee all programs at ESS, as well as the programs of Safe Space NYC, a Queens based nonprofit and an ESS partner organization. Golden was formerly the Vice President for Child Welfare and Family Services at The Children’s Aid Society, where she worked for over fifteen years. Prior to Children’s Aid, Golden worked for both the Office of the New York City Public Advocate and Columbia University, where she earned both her law degree and Masters in Social Work. She also holds a BA from Barnard College.

Family Services of Westchester (FSW) appointed Courtney Rabb Vice President for Development and External Affairs. Rabb brings a decade of expertise in development, communications and marketing to her new role at the agency. Previously, she led the Development Department of the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan and was a member of the Development team for Weil Cornell Medical Center.

On February 24, 2015, FSW also held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Lanza Family Center for All Ages, which will bring children, teens and seniors together at one site to participate in programs, share experiences and benefit from one another. The Lanza Family Center for All Ages is named for Patricia Lanza who generously provided a $1 million challenge grant that enabled FSW to embark on this project.

Fedcap’s Chelton Loft, a voluntary clubhouse model program for adults with a history of serious mental illness, has moved uptown and to the East Side. There new address is now 104-106 East 126th Street, New York, NY 10035. Their announcement can be found here. Good luck in your new location!

The Fortune Society has received a $400,000 Medicaid Redesign Team grant for supportive housing. The funding will allow Fortune to provide 20 additional units of scatter-site housing and comprehensive case management services to individuals with criminal histories who are enrolled in NYS' Health Home Program.

Deepmalya Ghosh, LCSW-R, Associate Executive Director, Youth Development & Community Engagement of The Child Center of NY was quoted extensively in an article in the Queens Tribune about disparities in children’s services in New York City.

The Guidance Center of Westchester named Susan M. Ohanesian as Deputy Director for Clinical and Substance Use Services. In her role, Ms. Ohanesian is responsible for all aspects the Agency’s mental health clinics, school-based mental health programs and substance use treatment programs. Collectively, these programs provide services to more than 1,540 people each year with a combined annual budget exceeding $3.5 million. Ms. Ohanesian most recently served as Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at Daytop Village. She also held posts with Palladia, Bowery Residence Committee and Palisades General Hospital. Ms. Ohanesian earned her Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Connecticut. She achieved a post-graduate certificate in Social Work Administration from Hunter College.

The Board of Trustees of Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA) has chosen The Honorable Ronald E. Richter, former Commissioner of New York City's Administration for Children’s Services, as its new Chief Executive Officer. Currently a New York State Family Court Judge, Mr. Richter brings more than two decades of experience in child and family services and is highly regarded in the field. He will assume his responsibilities on May 18, 2015. He succeeds CEO Richard Altman who is retiring after 35 years of devoted service to JCCA and a total of 45 years in child and family services. We wish a fond farewell to Richie Altman and extend wishes of good fortune to Ron Richter as he assumes this new challenge.

The Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services (JBFCS) has announced its new Board of Trustees President, Alice Montag Tisch. She succeeds Steven L. Fasman, who served as President in 2014.

Christine McMahon of Fedcap was appointed to the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities. The Advisory Committee is part of the Obama Administration’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which the Obama Administration initiated last year. The committee will advise the U.S. Secretary of Labor on ways to increase competitive integrated employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities.

New Horizon Counseling Center was awarded the license for an Article 31 mental health clinic in Valley Stream, L.I., expanding the nonprofit’s reach into Nassau County. Based in Ozone Park, Queens, New Horizon will start operating Peninsula Counseling Center on March 16.

Odyssey House has been awarded a two-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to implement a pre- and post-release mentoring and recovery program for parolees at the Edgecombe Correctional Facility (ECF) in Northern Manhattan. The program builds on the successful peer-mentoring model Odyssey House provides as part of its outpatient services and the intensive 45-day in-prison treatment program it currently operates at ECF for technical violators of parole. A press release can be found here.

The Knapp Swezey Foundation has awarded Suffolk County-based Options for Community Living, Inc. a $35,000 grant, which will help support installation of back-up generators at three of its group homes for Long Islanders recovering from mental illness.

PSCH has started construction on its 165th Street property in the Bronx, which is due to open in the summer of 2016. This facility will consist of 58 units in a newly-constructed, 10-story building. The project is intended to provide jobs for the community, and to increase the supportive housing capacity within New York City. Some of the units are targeted to certain populations in need of rental assistance and supportive services in order to live independently within the community.

Services and Advocacy for G.L.B.T. Elders, or SAGE is opening its first senior center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Bronx as part of a $1.5 million, City-funded expansion of L.G.B.T.-focused senior programs and support services across the five boroughs. The Bronx center will operate five days a week from rented space on the second floor of the Union Community Health Center on East 188th Street. It will offer a range of social, cultural, art and health programs, as well as hot lunches.

On March 2, 2015, The Service Program for Older People (SPOP) welcomed New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray for a visit. Accompanied by Donna Corrado, Commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA), and Caryn Resnick, Deputy Commissioner of DFTA, the First Lady toured SPOP and met with clients, staff and volunteers at the geriatric mental health clinic.

SCO Family of Services received a $75,000 grant from the New York Women’s Foundation to provide services related to economic security for women and girls at or below the poverty level.

SUS announced the election of two new members to its board. Sandra Stark joins SUS after serving as a member of the Board of Directors of the recently-merged Palladia, Inc. for seven years, and its Chairperson for three. She brings more than two decades of nonprofit experience to SUS, having previously served on a number of boards.

Larry Hamdan is Executive Chairman of Global M&A and Head of Global Industrials M&A at Barclays, which he joined in 2010. Hamdan served on the board of Palladia Inc. since 1996, prior to his appointment to the SUS, Inc. board.

Transitional Services for New York was awarded a $9.56 million contract from the OMH to build a supported-housing facility in Jamaica. The 27,000-square-foot building will house 33 units for adults with serious mental illness and 11 units of low- to moderate-income housing. The project will cost about $15 million, with the remainder of the cost covered by low-income tax credits. The group bought the vacant-lot property for $1.25 million last year. It hopes to open the facility, which will receive referrals from psychiatric centers, adult homes and hospitals, in the next two and a half years.

VIP Community Services will has opened a new licensed outpatient mental health clinic, at 1910 Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, which is called the Wellness Center, Attending the ribbon cutting ceremony were community representatives, such as Senator Gustavo Rivera and Council member Ritchie Torres.

The Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) has appointed Marki Flannery, a VNSNY manager for more than 30 years to a newly created position, Executive Vice President and Chief of Provider Operations. She will be in charge of home health care services throughout VNSNY. She had been president of Partners in Care, the state’s largest employer of certified home health aides. Reporting to Ms. Flannery and assuming new senior leadership posts are Susan Northover, Senior Vice President of Intake and Patient Care Services, who will lead VNSNY Homecare, the certified home health agency; Rosemary Baughn, Senior Vice President for VNSNY Hospice and Palliative Care; and Jennifer Leeflang, Senior Vice President for Partners in Care, VNSNY’s licensed home care services agency. Ms. Northover had held that title for the Bronx region at VNSNY. Ms. Baughn had been Vice President of Operations at Vitas Healthcare. Ms. Leeflang was promoted from vice president and senior director of private care services at Partners in Care.

Westchester Jewish Community Services was awarded three grants totaling $52,500 from the Westchester Community Foundation and from the Dammann Fund to expand services for Jewish children; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth as well as pregnant and parenting teens.


On February 9, 2015, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Michael Botticelli as the Director of the Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP) in a 92-0 vote. Director Botticelli brings more than two decades of experience and leadership in supporting people struggling with addiction, their families and their communities.

Gail Nayowith was named by Mayor Bill de Blasio's as his first appointee to the New York City Board of Health. Previously Gail was the executive director of Citizens Committee for Children and President of SCO Family of Services. Most especially, she is also a longtime colleague and friend of The Coalition.

Advocacy partner, The Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC) announced that Ronda Kotelchuck, PCDC's founding CEO, will be retiring and a search is underway for a new CEO. Ms. Kotelchuck will continue to serve in her current role until a new leader is selected and will assist in the transition. PCDC was founded in 1993.

The United Neighborhood Houses, another advocacy partner, announced today that Nancy Wackstein will be leaving her position as Executive Director of the organization at the end of 2015 after 13 years in that role. Ms. Wackstein will remain in her current position through December 2015 in order to ensure a smooth transition unless a successor is identified prior to that date. The Board has formed a committee to lead the search for a new leader. We wish much success and satisfaction to our friend and colleague.

United Neighborhood Houses has appointed Gregory Brender and Kevin Douglas as Co-Directors of Policy & Advocacy at UNH effective March 1, 2015. They will serve together as leaders of the Policy & Advocacy Department and will join UNH’s senior leadership team. Brender, who has been at UNH for almost 7 years, will continue to focus on City-related issues. Douglas, who has been with the agency for almost 4 years, will continue to focus primarily on State work.

On March 26, 2015 from 8:30 am to 10:30 am, the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council is hold a policy roundtable entitled, “The Impact of New York’s DSRIP on Homeless Health Care Providers.” Participants will include Jason Helgerson, DOH Medicaid Director, OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez, providers, health plans and others. The event will be held at the Oberia Dempsey Multi-Services Center, 127 W. 127th Street, New York, NY.


Coalition Job Board

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

Job #  Job Title
8507 Nurse (RN)
8511 Building Superintendent


Social Worker (ACT)


Peer Counselor - Part Time


Care Navigator (Intensive Wellness Program)

8523 Bilingual Licensed Social Worker
8526 Administrative Assistant - Court-based Intervention and Resource Team
8540 Director of Outcomes Management
8546 Staff Generalist



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