NY Lawmakers on the Move June 15, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

AG James to Hold Public Hearing New York’s Mental Health Crisis

Attorney General Letitia James

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced yesterday that her office will host an in-person public hearing next week to examine the accessibility of mental health care for New Yorkers with serious mental illness across the state. 

“There is no doubt that New York is in the midst of a mental health crisis that has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said James. “For decades, New York has seen a decline of short-term inpatient psychiatric beds, which are critical to providing consistent and thorough mental health care in our communities. With this hearing, I intend to spotlight this crucial issue, explore potential areas of reform, and inform my office for future investigations into allegations of inadequate mental health treatment.”

James said since the pandemic began, approximately 400 inpatient psychiatric beds have been eliminated, converted to COVID-related or general medical use, or have been completely taken out of commission. This year, it is estimated that there are less than 5,000 adult short-term inpatient psychiatric beds in hospitals across the state. 

According to ProPublica, New York has just 274 psychiatric beds for children and adolescents. The lack of access to inpatient psychiatric care leads to increased homelessness, incarceration, and more frequent hospital visits. As COVID-related hospital visits decline, emergency departments are overwhelmed by individuals who require more intensive psychiatric services but are unable to access necessary psychiatric inpatient beds or services in the community, which can exacerbate their illness.

James is seeking insight from patients, families, providers, advocacy organizations, and public officials regarding problems that people in mental health crises or with chronic severe mental illness are having in accessing mental health services, including inpatient beds and emergency treatment. 

Using information obtained through the testimonies, James seeks to find legislative and enforcement solutions to combat this crisis impacting New York communities.

The hearing is slated for 2 p.m., Wednesday, June 22 at One Chase Manhattan Plaza, 28 Liberty Street in Lower Manhattan. Individuals who wish to provide oral testimony at the hearing must submit their testimony in writing by 12 p.m., Tuesday, June 21. Testimony may be submitted at: ag.ny.gov/mental-health-hearing. The hearing will be viewable to the public at: ag.ny.gov/livestream

Addabbo’s “Companion Animal Care Standards Act“ awaits governor’s signature

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) is currently awaiting final approval by the Governor after both the  Senate and Assembly passed his Companion Animal Care Standards Act (S.6870-B) last May.

The bill will require all entities — shelters and rescues — to be licensed by the Department of Agriculture and Markets which will ensure New York State’s homeless companion animals will live in safe and humane conditions, with proper cleaning, nourishment, and veterinary care. All licensed facilities will be considered animal shelters under the law. 

“Despite much progress in recent years, the standard of care for homeless animals was not adequate at many not-for-profit operations across the state,” Addabbo said. “This legislation, once signed into law, will ensure all shelter and rescue companion animals would live in safe and humane conditions, with proper cleaning, nourishment, and veterinary care and current ineffective laws would be obsolete.”  

The effective date of this legislation would be three years after it is signed into law, allowing those organizations affected by the legislation ample opportunity to work to meet these new standards. 

Velázquez leads in letter to Democratic Leadership urging extension of nutrition benefits to Puerto Rico

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (Photo Credit: ballotpedia.org)
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez

Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) has sent a letter along with nine congressional members to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee Rosa DeLauro stressing the importance of extending Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) by $1 billion to support nutritional benefits for Puerto Rico’s residents. 

Without this additional funding, by June of this year Puerto Ricans would see a dramatic reduction in the benefits they receive.

“U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico have been excluded from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the past 40 years, which prevents them from receiving the same nutrition assistance provided to other low-income Americans during times of increased need,” wrote the lawmakers. “As Americans, Puerto Ricans deserve urgent and equitable funding and should not be subject to fewer benefits solely based on residency. With rising food insecurity and lack of funding parity, we must act now to prevent a benefits cliff for Americans residing on the Island.”

Colton outraged by NYC public schools budget cuts

Assemblymember William Colton

Assemblyman William Colton (D-Brooklyn) yesterday decried the city for cutting the budget for public schools – particularly after the ays that the State Education Budget has provided a historic $2.1 billion increase for our school children, and a $600 million increase was allocated toward the NYC schools.

“The city administration and the city council have enacted cuts of $215 million in funding for NYC schools claiming that enrollment has dropped since 2020 during the pandemic. These cuts will prevent us from reducing class sizes, expanding gifted class programs in all our schools, fully implementing and complying with the Individualized Education Plans (IEP) for all our special needs children, and developing quality remedial programs for all our children who have fallen below performance levels. I am outraged with the decision,” Colton said.

“Therefore, I demand that this historic state school budget aid must reach our classrooms. These monies should be used to establish a plan to reduce class size, expand gifted class programs in all our schools, fully implement and comply with the Individualized Education Plans (IEP) for all our special needs children and develop quality remedial programs for all our children who have fallen below performance levels.”

Ung, OATH Commissioner Rehman visit with small business owners

City Council Member Sandra Ung

City Council Member Sandra Ung (D-Queens) and OATH Commissioner Asim Rehman will be in Flushing today to assist residents and business owners by answering questions about City-issued summonses and how they should be handled. 

The two will discuss the role of OATH, the City’s independent administrative law court, and how property owners and small business owners can fight City-issued summonses.  The Council Member and Commissioner will then visit several Flushing small businesses. 

The visit will start at 1 p.m., today, June 14 in front of the Queens Public Library, 41-17 Main Street, Flushing.

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