News & Info for NYS Council Members, 9/20/23

September 20, 2023

This morning some NYS Council members are reporting that they received notification (from SAMHSA) re: their CCBHC Expansion Grant award/s overnight, via email.   There is still nothing posted to the SAMHSA website page.  I will keep clicking! 


Don’t forget to attend our Thursday morning call tomorrow morning at 9:15 a.m.   OMH reps will review their plan to expand access to care via Article 31 Outpatient Clinic investments totaling $40M (gross – over two budget cycles). 


Crain’s Health Pulse – 9/20

Mental health care providers are calling on the state Office of Mental Health to reduce hurdles to sponsoring foreign workers in an effort to close persistent workforce gaps within mental health.

At a city Community Services Board meeting last week, state OMH leaders released new workforce survey data from 2022 which highlighted vacancies among therapists and prescribers at clinics across the state. Most of the 483 clinic programs surveyed had at least one therapist vacancy, and about 43% had at least one physician or nurse practitioner vacancy.

While the report spotlighted initiatives OMH is implementing to fill gaps, such as increasing funds to providers for recruitment and retention, expanding loan repayment programs for mental health professionals and creating office infrastructure to support future initiatives, industry leaders at the meeting brought up another potential fix: sponsoring foreign mental health professionals for Visas so they can work in New York. They called on the state to introduce infrastructure that will make it easier for nonprofit clinics to go through the sponsorship process.

H-1B Visas allow United States employers, including mental health care providers, to sponsor workers from other countries who have specialized skills and education levels. According to Michael Wildes, managing partner and an immigration expert at Midtown-based Wildes & Weinberg, clinics can sponsor either people who received their medical education in other countries or foreigners who went to school here.

To sponsor people for H-1Bs, employers can enter a lottery, which opens every March. The lottery is capped at 65,000 Visas, and hundreds of thousands of people apply for them, Wildes said.

According to Helaine Fox, the senior vice president of human resources strategy at the Child Center of NY, her organization applied for several Visas in the last round but only one person got approved through the lottery.

Traci Donnelly, the chief executive of the center which serves more than 55,000 children annually in more than 60 locations throughout the five boroughs and Long Island, spoke to the benefits of sponsoring foreign psychiatrists and people who can prescribe mental health medication. Beyond closing workforce gaps, she said, these employees can better connect with the immigrant communities they serve.

“It’s the most culturally competent way for us to deliver services. [The employees] have close proximity to the experiences they have in their own lives,” Donnelly said.

Currently the Child Center sponsors psychiatrists who speak particular languages and have special skills that are hard to find, she added. The nonprofit’s behavioral health programming includes counseling, substance use treatment and an Asian outreach program.

Cathy Wu, the senior program director of the Asian outreach program in Flushing, added that stigma around getting help still exists in many communities of immigrant New Yorkers that mental health professionals from similar backgrounds can help break down.

“In the market in the United States, if you just gather our workforce that are U.S. citizens, it’s rather difficult to find bilingual staff and that’s why the H-1B process has helped us extend to those who are passionate [and do] understand the culture,” Wu said. “And most of the time the clients do have a positive connection and really resonate [and say], ‘You know what it’s like back in the home country, the unfamiliarity–without judgment.’”

Visas also give employees a runway, Wu said, that allows them to pursue further certifications, enhance their training and better serve New Yorkers.

However, Wildes said hurdles around sponsorship could counter its benefits. He called the process “arduous,” leading to hesitation among employers–particularly providers who might not have the resources to hire attorneys or pay the industry’s prevailing wages, which can be higher than the minimum wage the provider would be required to pay American employees.

“Everything’s expensive in this arena. The question is if there’s a desire to do what they want to do,” he said.

At the CSB meeting, too, board members noted that while hospitals might have the resources for sponsorship, many smaller clinics do not have the infrastructure. They urged the state to help, including potentially creating avenues for nonprofits save money during the process, and argued that New York could become a model for other states by doing so.

Wu added that experts at the Child Center had to research the sponsorship process before the organization could begin offering it. More education from the state to providers around the process, challenges and barriers could be beneficial going forward, she said.

The next mental health provider workforce survey will be released in October. —Jacqueline Neber


Over the past year, author and journalist Jennifer Egan followed people as they exited homelessness, signed leases, and moved into permanent apartments, with onsite support.   Her piece for The New Yorker offers a striking view of the challenges people experiencing homelessness face, and what is possible with permanent housing.

It’s also an unflinching and unvarnished look at the work done every day through street outreach, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing to help people get and remain housed. And it’s a sobering tale of the ravages of the opioid crisis.

Here’s a link to the article in The New Yorker.


Albany Update:  

Megan Baldwin has left the Department of Health where she was serving as Exec Deputy Commissioner under DoH Commissioner James McDonald.  Attached, please find a link to a page on the DoH Website that updates executive leadership at  DoH as of September, 2023.