APRIL 26, 2024

ALBANY, NY: The Mental Health Empowerment Project (MHEP) acknowledges the enactment of New York State’s Fiscal Year 2024-2025 budget, which provides $237 billion to address a broad spectrum of needs, with substantial funding directed towards housing, education, health services, and support for immigrants and new arrivals. Despite the challenges of funding new initiatives, we, alongside our partners, successfully advocated for critical enhancements, notably in mental health and disability services.

Key Budget Highlights:

  • Human Services Workforce COLA: The budget boosts the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for human service agencies to 2.84%, up from the proposed 1.5%. This $31.345 million increase will help address the ongoing inflation challenges and financial strains on service provision, with stipulations for increasing non-executive staff wages by at least 1.7%.
  • Support for Immigrants/New Arrivals: An allocation of $2.4 billion for new arrivals, which includes restoration of $64.2 million for legal services, $324 million for the Supplemental Empire State Child Credit Payment, and $9.8 million for Adult Literacy Education, reflects a robust commitment to supporting vulnerable populations. However, the exclusion of the Housing Voucher Access Program (HAVP), Coverage for All (C4A), and Language Access Expansion from the budget marks significant areas of unmet need.
  • Housing Initiatives: The budget enacts elements of the ‘Good Cause Eviction’ policy and introduces a new housing development tax incentive, 485-x, which allows for a 40-year property tax exemption on developments that keep 20% of new units below market rate. Although this is a step towards more affordable housing, the opt-in provision for municipalities outside New York City and the exclusion of stronger tenant protections are seen as missed opportunities to prevent unjust evictions and rent hikes.
  • Prenatal Care: New York becomes the first state to offer up to 20 hours of covered prenatal care under paid family leave, marking a significant advancement in maternal health and wellness.
  • Daniel’s Law Pilot Program: With $1.5 million allocated, this initiative promises to refine mental health emergency responses, potentially transforming how crises are managed across the state.
  • Intensive and Sustained Engagement Team (INSET) Programs: Continuing funding for INSET programs to engage individuals in a non-coercive manner is a testament to the state’s commitment to mental health innovation.

Despite these gains, MHEP is concerned with the healthcare sector’s continued focus on institutional care, as evidenced by significant funding increases for hospitals and nursing homes, rather than prioritizing integrative, community-oriented solutions. This emphasis may perpetuate reliance on institutional care at the expense of more inclusive, community-based approaches.

Furthermore, the modest increase in funding for the Independent Living (IL) network, which remains excluded from the broader COLA adjustments, underscores the need for continued advocacy to ensure adequate support for these critical centers.

As we move forward, MHEP remains dedicated to advocating for a balanced approach that prioritizes sustainable, cross-systems peer support models. We will continue to work with state officials to ensure the effective implementation of these programs and to address areas where the budget falls short, striving for a system that truly supports all New Yorkers in achieving optimal mental health and wellness.