YLAN Comments on the Proposed Integration of Behavioral Health Services

Illustration of cross-disability young adults with text that reads "Reimagining Behavioral health. bringing the voices of youth and young adults

November 9, 2020

The Young Leaders and Advocates Network Comments on the Proposed Integration of Behavioral Health Services.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed integration of Addiction and Mental Health Services. As the Young Leaders and Advocates Network (YLAN) Council, we represent a statewide network run for and by young people with disabilities and cross-systems experience. YLAN is dedicated to uniting and empowering young people across the state and ensuring we are meaningfully and authentically involved in all decisions that affect us. Young people in our network and on this Council have previously or currently access addiction and/or mental health services. We write to you regarding the proposed integration with the following recommendations and feedback.

Increase Youth-Friendly Opportunities to Inform and be Involved in the Process. Youth involvement and youth-guided practice are nationally recognized best practices that must be implemented to support a successful integration. This can be achieved by:

  • hosting additional focus groups, listening sessions, and other input gathering opportunities targeting young people;
  • youth involvement on planning and leadership teams advising on the integration, dissemination of information, and subsequent efforts; and
  • implementing strategies to ensure youth voice is represented in evaluating the process, needs, and effectiveness of services and programs.

Address Current Concerns and Feedback from Young People by partnering with statewide networks, local youth groups, and providing opportunities as indicated above for young people to provide further input. Priorities include, but are not limited to:

  • Assure informed consent and that young people are empowered and supported in making decisions and addressing concerns with services. This includes ensuring education and informed choice for young people regarding medication and treatment practices.
  • Eliminate restraint and seclusion; create a cross-systems partnership, including self-advocacy groups, to address systemic issues leading to instances of restraint and seclusion; and provide funding, training, and support for alternative practices.
  • “Just Say No” to outdated prevention efforts and establish new practices in collaboration with young people.
  • Increase funding and support for youth-guided anti-stigma efforts that address not only stigma young people seeking help face from others but also the stigma and judgement that occurs within one’s selfon the journey to recovery.
  • Address barriers to receiving services including transportation, waitlists, lack of available beds, and failure to connect young people to supports when services are not immediately available or following discharge.
  • Improve the availability and coordination of services with OPWDD for dually diagnosed individuals.

Maintain Rights and Ability to Direct Care. The Office of Mental Health and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports currently operate under different regulations. In many situations, this has resulted in a difference in practices such as restraint and informed consent for medications. Special consideration must be made to ensure we do not lose sight of the rights of young people and their ability to direct their lives and the services they receive. These rights must be clearly defined by the integrated agency in partnership with young people, posted, and readily accessible to any and all young people receiving services.

Ensure Lived Experience Requirement in Peer Services. In the provision of peer services, requirements under the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports maintain a key difference in eligibility for the peer role. Under the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, peers are not required to have direct lived experience as a person in recovery as is required through the Office of Mental Health and the Children and Family Treatment and Support Services. In consideration of integrating these agencies, peers must be required to have direct, lived experience to serve in such roles. This shared experience is crucial to the provision of peer support.

Maintain Funding for Statewide Youth Networks. Currently, the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports provide funding for two separate statewide youth networks. These networks have provided necessary support, networking, advocacy, and empowerment for young people and youth peer advocates across the state. They also provide training and technical assistance to providers and other stakeholders to improve youth involvement, engagement, and the provision of youth peer services. Whether the funding opportunities for these networks are to become unified, or continue to be provided separately, we must ensure that the available funding and support for statewide youth voice is, at a minimum, maintained.

For more information regarding YLAN’s position on the proposed integration of behavioral health services, please contact Brianna Gower, Director, at bgower@ylanetworkny.org.