Fountain House has been supporting the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS)’s Legislative Day in Albany for over 18 years.
I have been attending since 2009 and still get revved up about this day because it gives me and my peers a chance to inform the politicians about issues that the mental health community faces. It’s also an opportunity to advocate for how important accredited Clubhouses are throughout the metropolitan area and across the country.
Fountain House and all the other clubhouses that follow the Clubhouse Model are so important for the mental health community. They give people with mental illness hope: a chance to re-enter society and live productive lives. When I went up to Albany for Legislative Day, I was fortunate enough to be a team leader, not only for my group from Fountain House, but also with a group from Metro Club PROS (MCP).
The day began early since we had to leave Fountain House at 6:30 a.m. Kenn Dudek came with us and also had the honor of receiving the Marty Smith Memorial Award, for Fountain Houses’, outstanding work in the mental health community. Samene Reid, who was the captain on the Fountain House bus, distributed the different brochures, including the newspaper, Literary Magazine, and testimonials which we would hand out to the legislators. When we arrived, Harvey Rosenthal, the President and Director of NYAPRS greeted us heartily, and told us to get some breakfast as soon as we got to the Egg Building.
I am very proud to say that even on Legislative Day, we continued to work side by side which is a part of the Clubhouse Model. I had the pleasure of co-leading my team with Michelle Rodriguez who is the Director of Fountain House Bronx. When we went to our appointments with the elected officials, each of us shared our experiences. We shared our personal stories and how Clubhouses have affected our lives for the better. We also discussed the issues that were very relevant to the day. Housing is a very big topic because it is essential for mental health recovery. Another issue we discussed was the prospect of reinvesting savings from state hospital downsizing to boost community-based housing, employment, and peer services.
The NYAPRS 18th Annual Legislative Day schedule included President Harvey Rosenthal, Co-Presidents Carla Rabinowitz and Alison Carrol and the Public Policy Co-Chairs. Raymond Schwartz welcomed us and collectively made presentations on this year’s budget priorities. Prior to that, Harvey Rosenthal, the President of NYAPRS greeted us formally in the auditorium and gave us an overview of what the New York State budget should consist of for the Mental Health Community.
The presentations of this year’s budget priorities were the following: Invest $82 million in Statewide Housing Rate Adjustment for Supported, Congregate, and Permanent Settings; (Toni Lasicki), create 30,000 NY. N.Y IV Supportive Housing Beds (Steve Coe), preserve $30 million in Adult Home Investment in Community Settings; restore Equal Funding – Ray Schwarz, Geoff Lieberman. Also on the agenda was supporting Criminal justice initiatives, preserving $115 million in Medicaid funding to support recovery – focused transition to Medicaid Managed Care (Briana Gilmore), and approving 2% COLA for Community Mental Health workforce (Ray Schwartz).
Then we watched the presentation of NYAPRS Awards to people who have worked above and beyond in the field of mental health recovery. Kenn Dudek and Iris Diaz received the Marty Smith Memorial Award for Fountain House for outstanding work in the Mental Health Community. At noon, we had lunch in the Egg Building and went over our strategy before we went to the rally on the steps of the State Capitol building, where we were going to see our respective assembly people. We even saw Mayor Bill de Blasio.
By 4 p.m. we were back on the buses and on our way home after a very accomplished day! I hope in the future our attendance at Lobby Day only gets larger, and we have two Coach Buses going up to Albany! I also would like to thank all the members and staff that participated in this great event and made it go so smoothly.