Surrounded by colleagues and mental health advocates, New York state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk called on the rest of the Senate to strengthen and provide better funding for the Community Mental Health Reinvestment Act. Last week, Tkaczyk emphasized the importance of providing aid to those in need.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Reinvestment Act, which has been acclaimed by mental health service providers, advocates, recipients and administrators,” said Tkaczyk, who serves on the Mental Hygiene Budget Conference Committee. “The basic principle behind this landmark legislation is that savings realized from closing and downsizing state facilities were to be reinvested into building and maintaining community-based services, which are far less costly for taxpayers, and far more effective than providing services in an institutional setting, emergency room or jail cell.”

In the 2013-2014 budget, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Assembly identified $25 million in savings to the State’s Office of Mental Health hospital system. They also proposed using $5 million from said savings for the Reinvestment Act. However, the Senate Republican Conference decided to eliminate those funds completely.

Tkaczyk said that she would at least like to see the $5 million proposal by Cuomo and the Assembly included in the budget, but would also like to see more of the potential $25 million savings reinvested back into community-based services.

“Fulfilling the commitment made by the state to reinvest in community-based organization would allow these nonprofit agencies to provide more direct and efficient care to people facing mental illnesses in our state,” said state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, ranking member of the Senate Health Committee. “Quite simply, if we do not reinvest in these services, we will deny our communities the resources necessary to effectively diagnose and treat mental health conditions.”

Tkaczyk and company also pointed to the need to update a figure that used to determine savings realized through closures and downsizing. According to the reports, $70,000 is currently used per bed per year, which is considered to be an out-of-date figure from over 10 years ago.

Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, chimed in, saying that the promised investment into the community would see immediate improvement.

“Reinvestment has represented New York’s promise to spend public mental health dollars where New Yorkers need them most in the community,” Rosenthal said. “New York spends more money on more hospitals serving less people than the next two to three states combined. Downsizing state hospitals and creating Centers of Excellence and reinvesting into community systems will allow New Yorkers to keep the promise of recovery for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities.”