Few make a fuss when a psych ward closes

February 11, 2009, Times Herald-Record:

CORNWALL — St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital expects to discontinue inpatient admissions to its mental health unit on March 1. The Mental Health Services Council approved the closure Friday.

The hospital announced plans in September to close the unit, citing an operating loss.

It’s unfortunate this happened just before President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, which included provisions for protections against discrimination of treatment for mental illness. While this is generally applied to insurance companies who would formerly cut patients with mental illness off at a certain point, and not their non-mentally ill cohorts, I think it is within the spirit of the law to hold hospitals responsible for a non-discriminatory environment.
These are interesting things to think about as St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital becomes ever more viciously profit driven, even as it collects tax-free millions from the state, with little accountability and decides to close its Cornwall Emergency Room, for lack of profitability.

Merging commissioners report

Got the report re: merging DSS and Mental Health department commissioners positions emailed to me yesterday afternoon at 3 p.m. (Thank you, Mental Health Department.)  It is 71 pages long, but here are a few things from an initial skim through it:

  1. This report appears to be about merging the departments together, even though this has been denied by County Executive Neuhaus and his administrative staff, and I have heard legislators told it was “only” the commissioner position that was to be merged–not the departments.  (Going back to Ms. Miller’s appointment in December of 2014 there is a hint of downsizing in Executive Neuhaus’s quote/article here.)
  2. I remember from the June Human Services Legislative Committee meeting hearing someone say that five other counties have done this in NY State.  The report makes some mention of this having been done elsewhere on page 16 but does not name the counties.  Meanwhile, Mike Anagnostakis counters, ‘“It’s a test case. It hasn’t been done anywhere else so before we move to judge we have to hear if New York State says we can,” Anagnostakis said.’
  3. The general language of the report introduces the topic with small government generalizations about fiscal stress and overburdened taxpayers and the need to save money.  A note of thoughtfulness appears on page 8, where the authors describe how the addition of a member from the Mental Health Department has helped recognize unmet needs of participants in the Pathways to Independence program.  But surely this kind of collaboration could happen with or without a merged administrator.
    This leads me to a larger generalization about the report.  Some of the ideas about collaborations between the two departments make a lot of sense.  However, I do not understand why collaboration must be at the expense of a department or both departments.
  4. All this for $159,134: that’s the total anticipated savings of this move, the cut from removing the salary and benefits of the commissioner of mental health from the budget.
  5. Authors tout the opportunity to “eliminate duplication/efficiency” yet this seems so odd as the departments provide different services.  So much so, that, for example, the departments’ staff concluded that they could not create a unified application for clients seeking services from both of them.

In conclusion… the appendices are revealing in terms of the range of vision of the administration.  Appendix 1 is about joint meetings of the two departments communicating together.  Appendix 2 is about how the opiate epidemic is being addressed.  On page 47 is Appendix 3: “What are the Pressing Issues we Face Today?”

Something that I did not see in Ms. Miller’s report was a commitment to the mentally ill part of her constituency.  Over the years I have watched and bemoaned the fact that the number of psychiatric beds in Orange County has been steadily declining.  First St. Luke’s Cornwall closed, claiming low Medicaid reimbursements.  Then Arden Hill closed.  Yes, the new ORMC opened, but with fewer psych beds.  It seems that what was formerly known as Occupations, now Access Supports for Living, is the safety net for many needing mental health care in Orange County, apart from private providers.  What could the county be doing to support Orange County’s mental health in a more robust way?
And to reiterate my earlier statement, I do not understand why a county with a $40 million surplus would want to cut a measly $159,134–that’s .04% of the surplus.  Hiring someone with administrative level expertise and qualifications in mental health issues could be a real bonus for Orange County.

Foil update

Foil update. I asked the Legislative Foil Officer for a copy of the Report handed out to legislators at a July 19, 2016 committee meeting: “Building a more integrated system of care” by Darcie Miller, current Acting Commissioner of Mental Health and Commissioner of the Department of Social Services. Was told to ask Mental Health Dept. Waiting to hear back from them, hopefully in less than 20 days.

Merging of Commissioners of Mental Health and DSS

Today, Orange County legislators met in committee to discuss merging the commissioner positions of Mental Health and the Department of Social Services. I am concerned that merging these two administrative level positions will result in sacrifices to the most vulnerable residents of Orange County. While the legislators and Mr. Neuhaus brag about the “cost savings” of such a move, we already have a $40 million surplus. At a time when it is recognized that we are in an opioid/heroin crisis sacrifices should be made elsewhere.

Legislating in the Dark

The Orange County Legislature has been discussing merging two commissioner positions, the Department of Social Serves and Mental Health.

Two days ago I made a Freedom of Information Law request to the Orange County, NY legislature for the following information:
1. Please email the following records if possible:
A. Job Description of the Commissioner of Department of Social Services
B. Job Description of the Commissioner of Department of Mental Health
C. Materials submitted to New York State Authorities (OMH or otherwise) needed to gain approval for merging of these two positions.
D. List of the five other counties in New York State which have merged these two positions.

Today I received back the following:

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 10.10.24 PM

Councilwoman Holmes


click to enlarge

A co-feature today with ajanejohnston.net.

Grandma on Economic Development Incentives

In this video I explain how I’ve changed my perspective on various economic development issues, including the uselessness of focusing on nitpicking with what our local public authorities do while the big money bypasses local redevelopment efforts.

Winter Cooking with Grandma

Haiku in the Newburgh Adams’ Parking Lot (post storm)


Mega flag waves bright
Car dealership announces
All is right with world.

N.B.: D.A. Hoovler’s recent sweep

source: ajanejohnston.net

click to enlarge

In the press release accompanying the announcement published on the Orange County Government website about the most recent quarterly welfare fraud sweep, it is hard to hold up what are clearly criminal acts as anything besides that.  The District Attorney’s office does not explain each person’s crime though, and a lot of the accused criminals have small charges next to their names, which makes the hub-bub seem a little petty, next to their more flagrant fellow offenders who allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars.  What, exactly, did each of these people do?  How nit-picky is the fraud unit being?

It makes me feel a combination of unpleasant symptoms.  A desire to say something, but simultaneously a feeling of anxiety and nausea that I will be ignored and laughed at, or that my own health problems will become worse and it is better to just ignore it all and stay away.

I like painting, it is a good hobby for me, I have not had so much paranoia lately and that’s a good thing.  So perhaps I will just note my disapproval of the fact that it is the lowest income bracket that is receiving the highest scrutiny level of this district attorney, and that a promised office of an inspector general or equivalent title which was really an empty campaign promise made by Steve Neuhaus to me has been abandoned.  Aside from a limp report regarding Leigh Benton, there has been nothing done to address fraud, waste, abuse or corruption within Orange County at the white collar level at least to my knowledge, which I grant you could easily be ill informed.

Instead you make a fuss about busting people for $1,500, when sinking $11M in one fell swoop for some radios.  Surely the county could use some oversight in its transactions and purchases and business elsewhere at a white collar level; yet we reach for the oldest tropes in the book, the Welfare Queens, am I back in Mitchell’s Newburgh?  So profitable among voters, as everyone knows the poor are still as despised as ever, take a look at the editorial pages of the Times Herald-Record if you doubt it.