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Molinaro pushes for mental health boost; talks crisis stabilization center for Sullivan

Alex Kielar
Posted 12/1/23

MONTICELLO — U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro of New York’s 19th Congressional District hosted a roundtable at the Monticello Fire Department Firehouse on Tuesday, November 21. Convening with a …

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Molinaro pushes for mental health boost; talks crisis stabilization center for Sullivan


MONTICELLO — U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro of New York’s 19th Congressional District hosted a roundtable at the Monticello Fire Department Firehouse on Tuesday, November 21. Convening with a number of local officials, the Congressman discussed the idea of getting a crisis stabilization center in Sullivan County. 

Those participating included District Attorney (DA) Brian Conaty, County Legislator Nadia Rajsz, County Manager Joshua Potosek, Health and Human Services Chief John Liddle and Sheriff’s Detective Peter Ramos, as well as others. 

Representatives from People USA, Himali Pandya (Chief Strategy & Development Officer) and Tammy Robson (Assistant Executive Director of Crisis Services) were also in attendance. According to Molinaro, People USA was a big part of getting a stabilization center in Dutchess County. Before his term in Congress, Molinaro was Dutchess County Executive for 11 years.

“We have a mental health crisis,” Molinaro said. “Every age, every family and every category of population is confronting mental wellness concerns, and we do not have an infrastructure to address it. Sadly, the most effective mental health system we have in America is in the jail and prison system. It’s because, historically, we’ve treated those with mental illness as criminals. 

“They are not and illness is not a crime,” Molinaro continued. 

“What we need to more actively do, I believe, is invest in a community-based model to help divert individuals from the jail setting or justice setting. Then put them into a more continuum of care that gets all of the existing stakeholders - and build some new ones - all working together to invest in the health and wellbeing of the individual.”

Molinaro spoke about how he implemented the model for crisis stabilization centers in New York State, starting in Dutchess County. He argued that the state isn’t implementing it exactly the way they [Dutchess County] did, but that the good news is, the state is putting dollars behind the concept so that there is access to the resources. 

The Congressman also said that, when Dutchess County opened their model, they had to get 12 or 13 waivers from the state for licensing and revenue trade. He said that they created a hybrid model, where they had to get the waivers, but would then ultimately help the state create what is now the revenue stream. 

“So you can tap into state and federal resources to fund some of this,” Molinaro said. “You can, of course, bill for some of this. So it does become something that can become self-sustaining.”

He concluded his opening by saying that the other partner needed for the crisis stabilization center to work is the health care system. 

“Hospitals will benefit financially by seeing the diversion occur,” Molinaro said. “So they are going to save money. That savings needs to be put on the table and invested into the model.”

Molinaro said that Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther wants to be helpful with funding and that they will also have access to some capital resources. Gunther backed that up when she showed up towards the end of the roundtable, saying that she will see about getting as much money as possible into getting a stabilization center.  


Local leaders discuss

Molinaro opened the floor to anyone that had questions, concerns or observations to speak up. 

One of the main concerns that was brought up was location, with ensuring the center would be in a location that is easily accessible being a major talking point. Molinaro said that for people dealing with mental illness, driving or getting on a bus is a challenge. He went on to say that training emergency responders how to transport to diversion centers would be critical for it to work.

It was noted by Pandya of People USA that the crisis center is the alternative to a hospital, so it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and staffed by peers — people with lived experiences. 

“[Peers] are folks who have been in these systems,” said Pandya, “who have dealt with these traumas and are well enough in their recovery journey where they want to spend their career helping others in that same situation. What peers allow is that sense of trust.”

“We lead with hope,” Pandya continued. “If you come in on one of your worst days and you see somebody who’s been in that situation and you’ve seen them get better, you know that you can do it too. Peers take all different shapes, sizes and credentials.”

Pandya also said that it is a walk-in center for anyone experiencing mental health and substance abuse challenges. She said that they have 23 hours and 59 minutes to get them to their next level of care, whether that is being connected with community resources or elsewhere. But she also noted that no one is turned away and it is understood that some people might take longer than that 23 hours and 59 minutes. She noted that the standard or average timeframe that someone is with them is for six hours. 

Pandya said that is a 30-day aftercare window, which comes with identifying and filling gaps in their path to recovery. Molinaro said that Catholic Charities was one avenue that helped with the aftercare for Dutchess County and that non-for-profits could help to fill the gaps. 

Other local leaders to give their insight and questions on the matter included Camille O’Brien of New York’s 51st Senate District, Rep. Peter Oberocker’s office, County Legislator Nadia Rasjz and Lindsay Wheat of Sullivan 180. Rasjz noted how she visited the Dutchess County stabilization center with fellow legislator Luis Alvarez seven years ago, and she would definitely like to see it move forward for Sullivan County. 

Molinaro closed the roundtable by saying that Sullivan County is really two years out from getting a stabilization center, based on the resources needed. But he said they could come up with something simple within that window and build from there like he did with other counties. 

The next step would be to figure out possible stakeholders and have them tour and give a Q&A of what the plan is for the center. Molinaro said that he will help them with the whole process and is happy to explain and mediate any concerns. 


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