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$25 million in community-based mental health spending included in Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposal

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Included in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget, released Tuesday, is an increase of $25 million in spending to expand community-based mental health care across the state – tied to the closure of some state-run inpatient beds.

In Ogdensburg, the state plans on reducing the number of adult inpatient beds at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center from 65 to 40 while adding 50 outpatient beds throughout the north country.

According to a release from the governor’s office, the state plans on closing a total of 400 “unnecessary” inpatient beds.

The $25 million in spending is targeting “enhanced services” including crisis and respite beds, supported housing, mental health urgent care walk-in centers and mobile engagement teams, according to the executive budget briefing book released by the governor.

The briefing book says that, “On an ongoing basis, these enhancements will be supported by an investment, on average, of $110,000 for every inpatient bed that is closed.”

State Division of Budget spokesman Morris Peters said, “The Governor’s budget allows for OMH to make targeted investments in community-based services prior to inpatient bed closures.”

Glenn D. Liebman, chief executive officer at the Mental Health Association in New York State, said “pre-investment” is crucial.

“There’s got to be a logical progression here,” Mr. Liebman said, adding that it wouldn’t be good for anyone if people were discharged from state-run inpatient beds before there was the necessary infrastructure in the community to support them.

“I think the overriding priority has to be about the community services,” Mr. Liebman said.

Mr. Liebman said because of the executive budget’s language it’s unclear at the moment exactly how the $25 million will be spent.

While it’s great for the money to be spent preparing state agencies to make the transition, Mr. Liebman said the state should focus on increasing the funding levels of non-profit mental health agencies that already have “boots on the ground.”

“Those folks are doing it day to day,” Mr. Liebman said. “We’re advocating that those be the most significant programs that should be funded with this new reinvestment.”

Mr. Liebman said that although it’s still relatively early in budget season – the state has an April 1 deadline to pass the 2014-2015 budget – he is planning meetings with state representatives to help ensure the funding goes to the agencies who are best placed to provide care.

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