ALBANY, NY (WENY) — Monday, mental health advocates traveled to Albany to plead for an 8.5 percent increase to the cost-of-living adjustment in the state budget to bolster the mental health workforce.
Some advocates are also pushing for lawmakers to invest $500 million in the state budget to help boost mental health services including housing. Some advocates said it would make up for the years the cost-of-living adjustment was not increased.
“The state has to make an investment. The governor has kicked this off with a great plan, but she’s not addressing this. So, all these great plans are good but if you can’t get staff to work in them and people who need service aren’t gonna get them, then it’s a failure,” said Harvey Rosenthal, Chief Executive Officer, New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.
Gov. Hochul’s executive budget proposes a 2.5 percent increase to the cost-of-living adjustment. Advocates are pushing for 8.5.
Some mental health workers said this increase to the cost-of-living adjustment is essential–especially for some New York counties who have fewer resources.
“I love to do peer work. I could be making a lot more money doing anything else, but I make do on what I make. But not everyone’s willing to struggle just to help people. They want to help people and flourish as well. So, you have to give them that chance,” said Brandan Campbell, Certified Peer Specialist with Catholic Charities, Broome County.
Some lawmakers agree. They said 8.5 is the minimum the mental health workforce needs to be able to recruit and retain workers.
“This is an adjustment to make sure that a mom can buy eggs, and put gas in her car, and pay for childcare for her kids. The fact that we have to fight for this every single year is really something we shouldn’t have to do,” said Sen. Samra Brouk (D-55th Senate District).
Brouk said the legislature is considering tying the cost-of-living adjustment to inflation. She recently introduced a bill in the Senate that would do just that.