Despite New York’s 2014 overhaul of children’s mental health services, far too many continue not to receive services to which they’re entitled under the state’s Medicaid plan, according to a lawsuit filed recently in federal court, as jointly reported by ProPublica and The City.
The state’s mental health system for children “is languishing in a state of dysfunction, providing inadequate, inaccessible, and woefully underfunded mental health services,” according to the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, Long Island, by advocacy groups Disability Rights New York, the National Health Law Program and Children’s Rights, in addition to the law firm Proskauer Rose.
The suit was brought by the families of two young people acting on behalf of hundreds of thousands of kids on Medicaid, ProPublica and The City reported.
Had the youngsters been provided the home and community-based services they needed, perhaps they would not have wound up in hospitals and residential care facilities, the suit claims.
In 2014, the state embraced a plan pushed by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to close nearly 33% of children’s psychiatric hospital beds and shifted the funding to outpatient and community-based services. Although it was touted as a transformational overhaul of a failing system, the news organizations found that the change did not reduce demand for hospitalization in the first five years, and caused children suffering from mental health emergencies to wait even longer for beds to open up.
The lawsuit alleges that while the state says it makes these services available, they aren’t intensive enough to meet the requirements of federal law and don’t reach many of the kids who should be getting them.
New York has long known that its mental health system fails to meet kids’ needs, according to the lawsuit against the commissioner of New York’s Department of Health, Mary Bassett, and the commissioner of the state’s Office of Mental Health, Ann Sullivan.
Both agencies declined to comment on pending litigation, the news organizations stated.