Families Together in New York State Policy Priorities for 2019

Families Together in New York State is a family-run organization that represents families of children with social, emotional, behavioral health and cross-systems challenges. Our goal is to ensure that ALL children and youth have the support they need in order to succeed. We represent thousands of families from across the state whose children have been involved in many systems including mental health, substance abuse, special education, juvenile justice, and foster care. Our board and staff are made up primarily of family members and youth who have been involved in these systems.

Families Together 2019 Policy Agenda is created by families of children and youth with social, emotional, behavioral and cross-systems challenges.


GOAL: All children, youth and their families, regardless of insurance status, must have timely, affordable access to appropriate children’s behavioral health services within their community.

GOAL: Address the children’s behavioral health capacity crisis.

  • PRIORITY: Expand and integrate Family Peer Support and Youth Peer Support Services into all children’s services.
  • PRIORITY: Maintain and Expand program code 1650 state-aid funding for Family Peer Support.
  • PRIORITY: Additional funding for the transition to Children and Family Treatment and Support (CFTS) services and State waiver programs to Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Array, including extension of enhanced rates for those services.
  • PRIORITY: Offer the new CFTS services to the 386,807 children under Child Health Plus .
  • PRIORITY: Provide a 2.9 % Cost of Living Adjustments for human services workers.
  • Additional funds for mental health in schools including wrap-around, violence and bullying prevention and school climate improvements, including funding for the School Mental Health Technical Assistance Center to support mental health curriculum in schools.
  • Ensure the availability of safe and affordable housing for young people in transition, including integrated supportive housing.
  • Expand service capacity for community-based prevention, treatment and recovery-orientated addiction programming, including the establishment of new Youth Clubhouses, Family Support Navigator Programs, and public education campaigns.
  • Ensure that trauma informed care is practiced in the behavioral health system.

GOAL: Make New York behavioral health insurance parity laws the strongest in the country.

  • PRIORITY: Codify protections for pre-existing conditions, and the essential health benefits mandates included in the Affordable Care Act and create a Universal Access Commission.
  • PRIORITY: Additional resources to hire staff within the Department of Financial Services to monitor commercial plans and the Department of Health for surveillance, monitoring and parity enforcement activities related to Medicaid.
  • Set Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health treatment co-payments equal to those for a doctor’s office.
  • Give OMH control over the medical necessity criteria used for mental health treatment.
  • Allow for immediate access to mental health inpatient treatment for children under age 18 by eliminating prior authorization.
  • Authorize 21 days of SUD treatment to begin and continue without insurer interference
  • Require mental health utilization review staff to have appropriate expertise.
  • Prohibit insurers and health plans from retaliating against providers who file reports regarding violations of the insurance law with State agencies.
  • Require insurers and health plans to post additional information regarding their in-network providers of MH/SUD, including whether provider is accepting new patients and their affiliations with participating facilities certified or authorized by OMH or OASAS.


GOAL: Invest in a system restorative in nature that emphasizes developmentally-appropriate approachs to holding young people accountable.

Support implementation of the ‘Raise the Age’ Initiative and further enhance existing law:

•          PRIORITY: Expand protections for older youth by expanding access to youthful offender (YO) status, raising the YO eligibility to young adults under 25 and improving sealing options.

  • PRIORITY: End Adult Correctional Involvement in facilities housing youth to ensure when 16 and 17 year olds must be incarcerated, they are held in juvenile facilities without adult corrections involvement or oversight.
  • PRIORITY: Ending Prosecution of Children Under 12 moving the lower age of juvenile delinquency from age 7 to age 12.
  • PRIORITY: Ensure Full Funding for Local Raise the Age Implementation by increasing investments in the front-end diversion services that keep youth in their communities rather than incarceration and restoring State support for Close to Home.

Pass the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act to create alternatives, restrict criteria for placement, and end the practice of long-term isolated confinement. It would also ban special populations from isolated confinement including youth under 21 and people with a mental, physical or medical disability.

Support efforts to reform the bail system, enhance the right to a speedy trial, and improve discovery procedures to assure youth are not held for indeterminate lengths of time because of an inability to afford bail or unnecessary court delays.

Invest in a “family first” system that recognizes the importance of keeping families together when possible and ensures that, when necessary, children are placed with well-supported relatives or foster families.

GOAL: Keep children safely with their family whenever possible.

  • PRIORITY: Invest in primary prevention available to families regardless of an open child protective services case.
  • PRIORITY: Restore state funding for preventative support services and and further invest in programming available for all families within their communities, especially those at risk of or currently involved with CPS.
  • PRIORITY: Implement the federal Family First Prevention Services Act’s provision that allows the use of current federal fostercare funding for evidence-based preventive services that allow children to stay in the home.
  • Identify and engage relatives and kin early on by integrating the identification of kinship resources, including fathers, into preventive and protective casework before a child has been removed to foster care and to help to prepare placement options in the event that entry into foster care becomes necessary.
  • Expand and integrate Family Peer Support Services (FPSS) and Youth Peer Support Services (YPSS) into all children’s services, including the child welfare system.

GOAL: Ensure every child in foster care has a family.

  • PRIORITY: Establish the Family First Transition Fund through a public-private partnership with a clean funding line of at least $3 million in state investment. The fund would support localities in increasing relative and foster family placements to reduce placements into high-cost residential facilities, build the State’s inventory of family and kin homes for foster children, and improve permanency outcomes for children.
  • PRIORITY: Require that kinship caregivers are fully informed about the range of services and financial supports available to them within the first week of placement, and on an on-going basis throughout their time as a caregiver. Improve licensing standards with expedited licensing for kin and removing unnecessary barriers that may prevent relatives from becoming foster parents.
  • Maintain and utilize a robust Foster Parent Census that supports local districts in collecting, analyzing and reporting to the state data on their existing pool of foster parents. Foster parent data should also be used to better understand trends in foster parent retention and satisfaction.
  • Shift financing for the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP) from the Foster Care Block Grant by making it akin to adoption subsidies.                                                                                                                  

GOAL: Establish stronger supports for youth in foster care or transitioning out of foster care:

  • PRIORITY: Expand and integrate Family Peer Support Services (FPSS) and Youth Peer Support Services (YPSS) into all children’s services, including the child welfare system
  • Strengthen the housing subsidy for foster youth by raising the monthly subsidy allowance to $600 per month, increase the upper age limit eligibility from 21 to 24 so that youth who age out of foster care at 21 can avail themselves of the subsidy program for up to 3 years; and allow flexibility so that youth may have roommates.
  • Fully fund the Foster Youth College Success Initiative to support youth in foster care in pursuing higher education to ensure they are prepared to lead independent and fulfilling lives.

GOAL: Ensure that schools are safe and supportive environments for all students:

  • PRIORITY: Continue providing funding for the Mental Health in Schools Technical Assistance Center, expand educational programming for students and their families on behavioral health, trauma, resiliency-based skills, and wellness, and bolster school-based children’s behavioral health capacity.
  • PRIORITY: Providing funding for training for schools in the use of restorative justice and other alternative disciplinary approaches to reduce suspensions.
  • PRIORITY: Pass the Safe and Supportive School Act to ban the suspension of students from kindergarten through third grade, prohibit suspensions for minor infractions, and limit long-term suspensions to 20 days, down from 180. The bill also urges alternatives to suspensions and would require schools to create a code of conduct for students, employees and visitors “that promote a safe and supportive learning environment.”
  • Require the Board of Regents to provide multiple pathways to a diploma beyond passing five regents exams and simplify graduation options.
  • Increasing support for transitions from settings such as the juvenile justice placement, in-patient mental health and substance use, residential treatment centers, and other situations that disrupt a student’s education.
  • Improving support for parents and students as they develop their Individualized Education Plans.
  • Increasing access to and improve the quality of pre-school and kindergarten programs.




  1. Families and youth must be active participants in planning services for their family and in developing and monitoring policies and services within their communities and within the state. When families and youth are involved, services are more engaging, overall satisfaction increases, outcomes improve, and the need for expensive hospitalizations and residential placements are greatly reduced.
  2. All children, youth and their families must have timely, affordable access to appropriate services within their community. Services must be cross-systems and ensure care is provided in the most integrated and appropriate setting possible. A study from the Journal of Adolescent Health estimates that 70% children and youth in need of mental health services do not receive the treatment they need.
  3. Children and youth must receive an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible. The education system must provide a safe and supportive environment for all students, promote emotional wellness and social learning, and embrace creative, collaborative problem-solving including community-based and restorative justice approaches to school discipline.
  4. Families should never have to relinquish custody of their children in order to receive care and treatment for mental health and substance use challenges. Without funding for appropriate services, youth often end up in hospitals, residential treatment and in the juvenile justice system. Parents may voluntarily or may be forced to relinquish custody of their children to access these placements.
  5. A trauma-informed perspective must be central to all policies impacting families and young people and should seek to prevent traumatization when possible, reduce re-traumatization, and preserve the dignity of the family and young person.