March 31, 2014

2014-15 Budget Provides a Much-Needed COLA for Direct-Care Workers
Also Provides $38 Million for Community Mental Health Services Throughout the State

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Mental Health Committee Chair Aileen Gunther and Assemblymember Harvey Weisenberg announced today that the 2014-15 final budget agreement restores a two percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for human services workers at state-funded human services agencies.

The budget includes $13 million, growing to $122 million, to support a two percent COLA for direct care workers, effective on January 1, 2015. Direct care workers will receive another two percent salary increase for the following fiscal year, beginning April 1, 2015.

"Direct care workers put in long hours caring for some of our most vulnerable men, women and children. They are underappreciated, and for too long they have been underpaid," Speaker Silver said. "Providing these men and women with a COLA was a priority that the Assembly negotiated for tirelessly from day one of the budget negotiations. This final budget also reflects the Assembly's continued commitment to funding vital mental health programs and services."

"This year's budget agreement addresses some of the most critical needs of the mental health and developmental disabilities communities," said Gunther. "It provides a long overdue COLA for direct care workers, dedicates funding for veterans mental health needs, makes a crucial investment in community-based mental health services, and creates a tax credit for employers who hire people with developmental disabilities."

"Direct caregivers are entrusted with the well-being of some of New York's most vulnerable people," said Weisenberg. "Their duties are often daunting, heartbreaking and physically challenging. As a parent and a legislator who has advocated for many years on behalf of these workers, I am so pleased that our state's budget recognizes their work and provides them with a better wage. I am deeply appreciative of the leadership of Speaker Silver and the Governor, who both recognized the need to provide a living wage to these individuals."

The COLA for direct care workers was originally agreed to in 2006 but has been delayed since 2008, making this year's agreement the first pay increase for these employees in more than five years. The COLA would be implemented for programs funded by the State Offices for Aging, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, Children and Family Services, Mental Health, People with Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Health.

In addition to the COLA, the 2014-15 budget also provides $38 million in funding for vital community mental health programs. This funding will be allocated to provide expanded mental health services for up to 3,000 more individuals in the community. Some of the services include crisis beds, respite, additional home and community-based waiver slots, and new supported housing units. Additionally, this year's agreement increases funding by $600,000 for mobile crisis teams to respond to emergency calls from families, schools and pediatricians. This aid will help link children and families to the mental health services that they need. The final budget also includes $2 million in support to address the ongoing heroin and opiate crisis in New York.

Finally, this year's budget increases the minimum amount of funding that must be reinvested for new community services to $110,000 for every Office of Mental Health (OMH) inpatient bed that is no longer needed to provide services to a patient. The budget calls for these provisions to continue for another three years.