NY Lawmakers on the Move, July 25, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Mayor Adams announces $ million anonymous donation for behavioral health professionals

Mayor Eric Adams

Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Health + Hospitals yesterday announced the launch of a new student loan forgiveness program for behavioral health providers, funded by a $1 million contribution from an anonymous donor. 

The new program is designed to help attract and retain doctors, nurse practitioners, and other clinicians who care for New Yorkers with mental health or substance use needs as the U.S. faces a national mental health professional shortage. NYC Health + Hospitals will offer psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers between $30,000 and $50,000 of debt relief in exchange for a three-year commitment to serve the public health system.

NYC Health + Hospitals provides about half of all behavioral health services for children and adults in New York City. The loan forgiveness program will be available to eligible employees and new hires for the next year or until the $1 million donation has been distributed. Applications open today, Monday, July 25, and New Yorkers can support this effort by donating directly to NYC Health and Hospitals.

“The behavioral health professionals in our public health system work tirelessly to support the most vulnerable New Yorkers living with mental illness and alcohol and substance use disorders,” said Mayor Adams. “Too often, these health care workers graduate with crippling debt and have no choice but to work in the private sector to pay off their bills. Especially at a time when the nation is facing a shortage of these lifesaving practitioners, and simultaneously facing an increased need for these professionals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this loan forgiveness program will help us attract and retain top talent to continue serving New Yorkers across the city. I’m grateful to the anonymous donor for this generous donation, and I encourage other businesses and individuals to chip in if they are able to support this important cause.”

CM Ung floats homeless intake legislation

City Council Member Sandra Ung

Council Member Sandra Ung (D-Queens) Friday said the crisis of asylum-seeking families taxing the city’s shelter system could be lightened with legislation she is proposing.

“New York City’s already troubling homelessness crisis is now being exacerbated by a wave of migrant families arriving here seeking shelter, which the city is required by law to provide. While the exact number is debatable, it is clear the city’s shelter system is being overburdened by these recent arrivals. This is particularly true at the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing Intake (PATH) Center in the Bronx, where people described a chaotic and overwhelmed system at the only site in the city that processes homeless families into the shelter system,” said Ung.

“I want to thank Mayor Eric Adams and his administration for accepting responsibility and admitting that leaving several families to spend the night on the floor inside the PATH center was not only inhumane, but violated the letter of the law and vowing to do better.

“However, this crisis shows that as a city we need to rethink how we provide for all of our homeless families, which is the focus of two bills I introduced in the City Council. The first would require the City to build a new family intake center in every borough. I recently visited the PATH intake center, and it is a well-run, state-of-the-art facility. However, it is the only one where homeless families with young children can seek help. At minimum, every borough deserves a similar facility.

“The other bill would require the Department of Homeless Services to study the feasibility of allowing community-based organizations to serve as local, small-scale intake centers. Bilingual, culturally competent staff would be able to help those seeking shelter begin the application process, while lessening some of the burden on the larger, city-run facilities.

“In the short term, it is critical that we deal with the current crisis at hand and find shelter for these migrant families in need. In the long term, we must make it easier for families with young children to access and receive the help they need and deserve,” Ung concluded.. 

Schumer says feds have stopped taking cooling assistance applications

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) yesterday revealed that New York’s fed-funded ‘cooling assistance benefit’ has been forced to stop accepting applications for the summer—because demand for assistance is up some 200% compared to last summer. 

Schumer urged the feds to huddle with New York and other states facing similar backlogs so that the fed funds associated with these programs can be utilized to the max.

“There is no doubt about it—it’s hot in the Big Apple. But what’s even hotter is the demand for New York’s ‘cooling assistance benefit,’ which delivers some help to seniors living alone, on fixed incomes or with health issues that make extreme heat dangerous,” said Schumer. 

“Despite the heat, New York was forced to freeze the program on July 8th—in the middle of the summer—because demand went from 10,000 last summer to 30,000 applications this summer. Between rising costs and climate change, which make these heat waves longer, more people need the help. Given this, we want HHS [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] to step in, offer maximum flexibility to New York so it can meet this unprecedented demand and prioritize those at a health risk.”

Schumer said New York State is the gold star when it comes to administering these types of federal-funded programs and that HHS has done a tremulous job with getting the money out the door on time, but with rising costs and climate change bearing down on the city, Long Island and beyond, the feds must hone in to help New York with maximum flexibility and resources that can get help to everyone who needs it, especially those at the greatest health risk.