Assemblyman Joe Lentol: We Are Failing People Suffering with Serious Mental Illness

Cheryl Roberts / Jan 24th, 2017
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Dear Members and Friends,

The Greenburger Center is honored to feature Assemblyman Joe Lentol's article about the failure of deinstitutionalization and the criminalization and homelessness of thousands of New Yorkers suffering from serious mental illness.

We are proud that Assemblyman Lentol stands with the Greenburger Center and its efforts to provide a safe and secure Alternative To Incarceration for New Yorkers who have fallen through the cracks of the mental health system and become criminalized because of a mental health disease.

We look forward to working with Assemblyman Lentol and all members of the legislature to make Hope House a reality.

Be well,

Assemblyman Joe Lentol
The Aftermath of Unfunded Deinstitutionalization in New York

Methods for serving those with mental illness continue to challenge us. We continue to struggle to find the solution for so many people suffering from brain diseases. The more we learn about the brain, the more we understand how difficult it is to treat these diseases.

As a state, we were told about the promised benefits of de-institutionalization and I witnessed firsthand the un-funded aftermath, which ultimately resulted in the criminalization and homelessness of many people with serious mental illnesses. The state has failed this population.

I saw numerous private facilities, like the Brooklyn Psychiatric Centers that my father helped create, fail because of a lack of Medicaid funding. We have pushed countless numbers of the mentally ill into facilities that do not help to improve or manage their illness, but rather write them off or further victimize them. Likewise, prisons and homeless shelters are no place for those with mental illness even though these facilities have become de facto depositories for the mentally ill. Although some of these facilities have support systems for their clients, they are simply not enough.

When instituted in New York, one solution that has been effective is the use of alternative to incarceration (ATI) programs, which have helped to keep those addicted to drugs out of prison and sober. Rather than incarcerating those with mental illness, this tried and true approach must be expanded. The Greenburger Center's Hope House model, developed with private funds, provides an important opportunity to tackle serious mental illness and addictions with success. New York should capitalize on this opportunity to make good on our commitment to all New Yorkers and help fund the expansion of ATI programs.

About the Author
Cheryl Roberts
croberts@greenburgercenter.org

Cheryl Roberts is an attorney and former local judge from Columbia County, New York. Early in her career she served as a counsel to committees in both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. Ms. Roberts has been a speech writer and lobbyist and most recently served as Corporation Counsel for the City of Hudson, New York.