February 7, 2024

Good morning,

Last week we shared 3 advocacy requests with all NYS Council members, requesting your assistance as we continue to lead statewide advocacy efforts designed to ensure our top budget priorities are included in the soon-to-be-released Assembly and Senate one house budget bills, and ultimately enacted as part of the new state budget.  They include:

  1. COLA @3.2% and $500M for MH and SUD agencies to address past years when the former Governor ‘not withstood’ the Human Services COLA. More on this:  Since FY 2006-07 a COLA equal to the Federal Consumer Price Index (CPI) has been included in unconsolidated law, but it has been “notwithstood” for the vast majority of the intervening years. This has resulted in COLAs for behavioral health providers that total approximately 33% less than the corresponding CPI for these years.
  2. COMMERCIAL REIMBURSEMENT RATE MANDATE: Governor Hochul’s executive budget proposal (PART AA) would mandate commercial insurers to pay at least the Medicaid rate to in-network providers for services provided to New Yorkers with this insurance. (Part AA, in the Article VII executive budget bill in the Health/Mental Hygiene Budget section)
  3. OMIG Audit Reform – We want the language embedded in A6813A/S5329B, ‘same as’ bills that would deliver much needed transparency, fairness and balance to the current OMIG Medicaid audit process, to be included in the final enacted budget.  

Here’s what’s been happening: 
The NYS Council has installed a new online platform on our Website that you can use to generate letters to our NYS elected leaders.  In addition, we have been supplying our advocacy partners with lots of talking points and content they can send to their members, urging them to contact lawmakers regarding our shared priorities.  We have drafted a Letter to the Editor that will be submitted today urging lawmakers to support the COLA and the commercial rate mandate, and we have scheduled and hosted numerous meetings with key lawmakers where our advocacy partners can (if they wish) join us in group meetings to demonstrate widespread support for our shared priorities.  
Having said this, it is YOUR ongoing communications with elected representatives that will bear the most fruit, and the NYS Council’s statewide presence is a value add in this effort.  We need to contact rank and file lawmakers across the state.   Many elected representatives are swamped with requests from their constituents and other advocates all urging them to support various budget priorities.   We need to break through the noise!  For this task we need to:  

  • Use simple language in our messages to lawmakers
  • Maintain frequent contact with our elected representatives 
  • Follow up with lawmakers/their staff after we ask them to complete an action such as signing on to a letter, etc.  Note: Repetition of message is critically important. 

With this in mind, we ask that you take action today and tomorrow, and complete the following activities: 

  1. 3.2% COLA & ADDITIONAL INVESTMENTS:  Make two calls today and tell legislative leaders your agency must have the 3.2% COLA in order to manage increasing costs associated with operating your programs and services, and to recruit and retain staff.  Our current job vacancy rate for positions that are client facing is 21% and there are waiting lists for services across the state.   Lawmakers should also include an additional $500M investment for mental health and addiction agencies to address years of zero investment in our sector. Call Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: 518.455.3791 and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins: 518.455.2415
  2. OMIG AUDIT REFORM:  Next, please send a letter to your elected representatives urging them to go to their leader and request inclusion of the language from the OMIG Audit Reform bills being sponsored by Assemblywoman Paulin (A6813A) and Senator Harckham (S5329B), in their one house budget bills.  You can use our new online platform to send a letter.  Go to the NYS Council’s new Advocacy Action Center here:  https://nyscouncil.org/advocacy-action-center/
  3. COMMERCIAL RATE MANDATE:  Send a letter to your elected representatives urging them to support the groundbreaking commercial insurance rate mandate proposal (Part AA in the Health/Mental Hygiene Article VII executive budget bill).   Please use our new online platform to generate letters!  Go to the NYS Council’s new Advocacy Action Center now!  https://nyscouncil.org/advocacy-action-center/

Please let us know how we can assist you as you continue to reach out to rank and file members, and legislative leaders.  I’m available at your convenience at 518 461-8200.