Hochul pitches $1 billion mental health plan, but barriers to access remain
Hochul pitches $1 billion mental health plan
When New York Gov. Kathy Hochul outlined her administration’s $1 billion plan to “fix New York State’s continuum of mental health care,” the news was praised by healthcare industry experts. President and CEO at Spectrum Health and Human Services, Cindy Voelker, welcomed the plan in an interview with The Buffalo News:
“I was really impressed and just thrilled… to see it actually happen — that she really understands the situation and really has ideas that make sense and that could really help — was the most positive thing I’ve seen in the last few years.”
Hochul’s project seeks to increase the total bed capacity for inpatient psychiatric treatment by 1,000, create 3,500 housing units for the state’s mental health services, increase mental health insurance coverage, and expand outpatient services through the $1 billion commitment.
The plan, announced by Hochul in her 2023 State of the State address, would provide funding to a field that often lacks it the most, especially following the pandemic’s strain on the state’s mental health services. Hochul’s office pointed to statistics showing that roughly one in three New York residents have either reached out for mental health support or know someone who has requested support since the start of the pandemic.
New York is in need of improved mental health resources, as the state’s services continue to be shrouded by structural and financial barriers limiting access to support.
New York State Office of Mental Health’s Public Information Officer Mark Genovese said one of the state’s most prominent barriers to mental health care is a “lack of culturally appropriate care.” The services provided by the state’s mental healthcare system are met with continued “unfamiliarity” from community members in knowing how to properly access and utilize them, with “long waiting lists to access mental health support.”
The New York State Office of Mental Health’s 2022 “Patient Characteristics Survey” points to employment status as a hurdle to proper mental health care coverage. The data reveals that 72% of the state’s patients are unemployed in some capacity, with a vast majority of those in residential or inpatient care. While those services are valuable, they are also much more intrusive. The state’s Office of Mental Health labels these services as “24-hour care,” in which patients are often under supervision and support for an extended period.
As such, for those unemployed, seeking mental health care could mean more time without the ability to find a job or receive income, and is a possible reason why the data shows there is a significantly greater number of patients not in the labor force. Even when they get the mental health care needed, the type of service provided may further enable their place within the system or leave them without the proper care to support themselves outside of these crowded inpatient settings.