The state is withholding from counties 20% of contract money earmarked for mental health services in the months of July, August and September. The funding will be withheld from counties unless federal funding makes them whole.

What You Need To Know

  • New York State is withholding from counties 20% of contract money for mental health services for three months

  • While not all counties are immediately affected, advocates say the threat is real

  • The money will be restored if the federal government passes a broad enough stimulus package

  • Advocate says the cuts could force some people with mental illnesses out onto the streets

According to Glenn Liebman, the Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of New York State, the impact on providers, individuals and family members could be dramatic, and the threat is causing a lot of sleepless nights. 

“This is powerful stuff,” Liebman told Spectrum News. “In the 25 years that I’ve been either in or out of state government in mental health advocacy, I’ve never seen anything like a 20% cut across the board for mental health services.”

The good news is that the effects aren’t yet being felt in most counties around the state, but that will change if federal stimulus money isn’t forthcoming.

According to the state’s guidance, counties may not play favorites with agencies.  

“The state has said to counties, basically, we want you to spread this 20% across the board, we don’t want you to play favorites. You’re withholding 20% from every provider providing mental health services,” said Liebman.

Some counties are better off than others and have been able to delay cuts by dipping into their reserves. Other counties aren’t making the July cuts because they believe the federal government will be sending funding to states and counties in August or September.

While some agencies have yet to see cuts, Liebman says the threat is hanging over the entire industry.

“As you can imagine, this is creating a great amount of anxiety and a great amount of trepidation about the future,” Liebman stated. “How are providers going to handle 20% cuts in funding? Housing providers may be in this incredibly difficult situation where an individual could end up homeless because they no longer have the capacity to take care of that individual anymore. That person could end up in a homeless shelter or in jail. We don’t know the repercussions of all of this.”