Queens Lawmakers On The Move Nov. 8, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Gillibrand Floats Legislation For Expanded Mental Health Services

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), yesterday announced the bipartisan Medicare Mental Health Access Act, legislation that would help expand access to mental health services to older adults and people with disabilities. 

Under current Medicare requirements, mental health services provided by clinical psychologists, who are trained and licensed to practice independently in all U.S. states and jurisdictions, require additional monitoring and sign-off by a physician. This requirement creates a barrier for clinical psychologists to provide critical mental health treatments for seniors and people with disabilities. The Medicare Mental Health Access Act would change this requirement by adding clinical psychologists to the list of providers in Medicare’s definition of a “physician.”

“Far too many Americans don’t have access to the mental health services they need, and Congress should be doing more to address this problem,” said Gillibrand. “That’s why I’m proud to announce the bipartisan Medicare Mental Health Access Act. This legislation would allow clinical psychologists to provide more treatment options for Medicare patients, helping to expand access to mental health services for our older adults and for people with disabilities. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to ensure that Medicare patients are receiving the care they need.”

Psychologists are currently the only doctoral-level health provider that is not included under Medicare’s definition of “physicians.” Physicians and mental health professionals are in short supply, particularly in rural and underserved areas, and therefore not available to oversee psychologists’ services. 

This bill comes after Gillibrand hosted town halls across New York State, meeting with older adults and disability rights advocates and hearing directly from them about their specific needs.

Kim Unveils New Public Service Philosophy: Do You Have Enough

Assemblymember Ron Kim

Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Whitestone, Flushing, College Point, Murray Hill) welcomed new staff members and announced a new public service philosophy: Do You Have Enough?

David A. Lee is the incoming Legislative Director. A recent graduate of CUNY Queens College, Lee feels compelled to enter community and political organizing to fight for dignity and justice in the lives of working people. Prior to joining Kim’s office, he worked numerous electoral campaign jobs, serving as a field organizer for the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Zephyr Teachout campaigns, and most recently, as the Deputy Finance Director for the Tiffany Cabán campaign. 

Rachael Safirstein will be transitioning out of her current role as Legislative Director and into a nongovernmental role where she will continue to assist the Assemblymember, including with the growth and development of his new initiative, the Inclusive Value Ledger. 

Jiyoon Lim will join Kim’s office as its newest Community Liaison. She is bilingual in English and Korean, and a long-standing and active member of the local community who previously volunteered in and served the Assemblymember’s district in many different capacities. 

Moving forward, Kim’s office and his staff will begin to emphasize a new public service philosophy highlighted by the question, “Do you have enough?” 

Kim explained that this reflected a shift away from a mindset of scarcity, of quid pro quo transactions and authoritarian hierarchies, to a mindset of abundance and cooperation.

“In my office, I want to make it clear that all roads do not lead to any one person or figure of authority,” said Kim. “Everything we do is about helping others, especially the voiceless and the most marginalized members of our community. By consistently asking each other ‘Do You Have Enough?’ we are reinforcing a giving culture of caring and empathy, in a community that should offer enough for everyone to live healthy and prosperous lives.”

Constantinides Gets Union Back For Queens BP Race

City Council Member Costa Constantinides

City Council Member and Queens Borough President Candidate Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, parts of Long Island City, Woodside) yesterday received the UFCW Local 1500 union endorsement in his upcoming race for borough president.

The seat is open with the election of current Queens Borough President Melinda Katz to become the new district attorney, although a special election date has not been set yet.

Local 1500 is the first major union to endorse in the Queens Borough President’s race. Members of the state’s largest UFCW local gathered outside of Key Food at 214-14 73rd Avenue in Oakland Gardens to throw their support behind Constantinides. 

“UFCW Local 1500 embodies the spirit of the labor movement with its tireless advocacy for Queens’ supermarket workers,” said Constantinides. “Together over the last decade we have built a partnership dedicated to preserving these jobs, which are a pathway to the middle class, and creating new ones. It is humbling to receive their endorsement, and I will continue our great partnership to Transform Queens into a fairer place for all.”