State Budget Update

April 6, 2022

Wednesday, 5:00: There has been no announcement regarding a budget deal yet, although key lawmakers keep saying they are very close. One of the sticking points appears to be criminal justice reform as it relates to Kendra’s Law. As you will recall, the Governor’s executive budget proposal sought to expand the Law which was expiring. A subsequent release of the Governor’s 10 Point Criminal Justice plan included changes to involuntary commitment. Advocates and hospitals are pushing back for a variety of reasons including that the language being considered would allow the court to put an individual that has already satisfied all of the requirements of the original court order back under a new court order at a judge’s discretion. Other advocates are objecting to the language stating that it may sweep up individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism. It sounds like the Legislature is pushing back, just seeking an extension of the current law.

We will keep you apprised of new developments.

Here’s an article from Politico Pro published today at 2:45:

Kendra’s Law changes still being debated in Albany. Here’s what may change.

Despite Albany lawmakers’ recent progress toward reaching a public safety budget deal, mental health advocates are raising concerns about one of the proposed changes to Kendra’s Law, which created a framework for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment.

Key context: Harvey Rosenthal, CEO of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, told POLITICO that he and other advocates accept much of the language being negotiated when it comes to the law — including a five-year extension, virtual testimony for court orders and even information sharing changes. But he argued that a proposal that could allow individuals to be put back on a court order after six months should be stripped from the final budget.

What they said: “Even if somebody has satisfied the conditions of the order — done whatever the order required — and at the end of that six-month period they were released from that order, the state is asking for the ability to put that person back on an order at a much lower standard than harm,” he said in an interview.

“For example, they’ve thrown in language like ‘an increase in symptoms,’ which is very vague. And they’ve even thrown in language around ‘life activities,’ which is so broad it could mean almost anything.”

He called proposed language “a tremendous constitutional overreach,” arguing that it could jeopardize many New Yorkers’ freedom and should therefore be removed.

Where things stand: Rosenthal said his group is not fighting lawmakers on the extension or allowing psychiatrists to testify via video conference to defend their recommended court orders. The data sharing language, he said, is “more complicated, but we think we’ve modified that down.”

Rosenthal said he believes the Assembly and Senate “have been listening,” but that the issue remains up to leaders at the budget negotiating table as an agreement is now days past the March 31 deadline.

“It all comes down to the six months: That’s where the battle ends,” he said. “We’re only fighting on that front.”

A Senate source confirmed that the six-month language was holding up budget talks.

Background: Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) said Tuesday that lawmakers were considering “pretty much an extension” and slight changes to the mental health provisions of Kendra’s Law.

The law passed over 20 years ago after 32-year-old Kendra Webdale was pushed in front of a moving subway train by a man with schizophrenia.

Hochul had previously called for extending the law through June 30, 2027, in her original budget proposal. She later included an expansion of involuntary commitment and Kendra’s law in her 10-point plan on criminal justice issues.