Provides a mental hygiene legal service to patients or residents of residential healthcare facilities who have been admitted directly from a facility and who have a chronic mental illness and are receiving services related to such illness.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the mental hygiene law, in relation to providing a mental hygiene legal service to certain patients or residents of residential healthcare facilities
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: This bill provides mental hygiene legal services with authority to provide legal assistance to patients or residents of residential health care facilities including nursing homes who have been admitted directly from a psychiatric facility or a psychiatric ward of a hospital and who have a serious mental illness for which they are receiving services related to such illness.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Sections 1 of the bill amends section 47.01 subdivision (a) of the mental hygiene law to include patients and residents of residential healthcare facilities including nursing homes who have been directly admitted from a facility licensed by the Office of Mental Health and who have a serious mental illness and are receiving services for such illness.
Section 2 of the bill provides for an immediate effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: The NYS Court of Appeals, the State's highest court, recently ruled that Mental Hygiene Legal Services (MHLS) lacks jurisdiction to represent mentally ill individuals who have been admitted to nursing homes from psychiatric centers and psychiatric hospital wards because the Office of Mental Health does not license the facilities. The legislature amended the law in 1993 to significantly expand MHLS's jurisdiction to include individuals in a range of other in and out-patient facilities without regard to the type of facility or a person's lack of legal admission status and avoid the need for MHLS to do battle to establish a jurisdictional foothold. Unfortunately, by a vote of 4-3, the Court of Appeals decided that those amendments are not sufficient to afford seriously mentally ill individuals access of protective MHLS when in a setting not licensed by OMH.
In the mid 1990's a practice of transferring individuals from psychiatric centers and psychiatric wards of hospitals to specialized units in nursing homes called neurobiological units (NBU's) where they continued to receive intensive psychiatric treatment was begun. These individuals were not there for traditional nursing home care. A series of award winning articles in the New York Times focused in part on this practice and claimed that the residents in the NBU were being deprived their legal protection. The article claimed that the NBU's were like being involuntarily committed to a psychiatric center without any legal protections. MHLS began looking into the matter and sought access to the residents and their records in order to provide advocacy and legal representation. Nursing homes denied them access and in June 2003, MHLS commenced a court action seeking jurisdiction to protect the rights of these individuals.
Nursing homes have since shut down NBU's, however there continues to be a steady flow of seriously mentally ill individuals being transferred from OMH licensed psychiatric centers and hospital wards to nursing homes.
Seriously mentally ill individuals deserve the same protections that they would be afforded had they remained in the OMH licensed facilities. They are not being discharged because they have been cured or stabilized. If these individuals continue to require intensive, institutional care and treatment that a nursing home provides, they must continue to be provided with the protections that MHLS was designed to provide. Many of these individuals have been in nursing homes for years without legal representation waiting this court decision. This bill will clearly put in statute MHLS' authority to provide legal assistance to these seriously mentally ill individuals who are alleged to be in need of care and treatment in such restrictive settings.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2010: A.10824-B/S.7432-A - Vetoed Memo 6811.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: No new costs.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 3423 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE February 22, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sen. McDONALD -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Mental Health and Develop- mental Disabilities AN ACT to amend the mental hygiene law, in relation to providing a mental hygiene legal service to certain patients or residents of resi- dential healthcare facilities THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision (a) of section 47.01 of the mental hygiene law, as amended by chapter 7 of the laws of 2007, is amended to read as follows: (a) There shall be a mental hygiene legal service of the state in each judicial department. The service shall provide legal assistance to patients or residents of a facility as defined in section 1.03 of this chapter, PATIENTS OR RESIDENTS OF RESIDENTIAL HEALTHCARE FACILITIES INCLUDING NURSING HOMES LICENSED AND OPERATING PURSUANT TO ARTICLE TWEN- TY-EIGHT OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH LAW WHO HAVE BEEN ADMITTED DIRECTLY FROM A FACILITY AS DEFINED IN SECTION 1.03 OF THIS CHAPTER AND WHO HAVE A SERI- OUS MENTAL ILLNESS AS DEFINED IN SECTION 1.03 OF THIS CHAPTER AND ARE RECEIVING SERVICES RELATED TO SUCH ILLNESS, or any other place or facil- ity which is required to have an operating certificate pursuant to arti- cle sixteen or thirty-one of this chapter, and to persons alleged to be in need of care and treatment in such facilities or places, and to persons entitled to such legal assistance as provided by article ten of this chapter. The head of such service in each judicial department and such assistants and such staff as may be necessary shall be appointed and may be removed by the presiding justice of the appellate division of the judicial department. Appointments and transfers to the service shall comply with the provisions of the civil service law. Standards for qualifications of the personnel in the service shall be established by the presiding justice of the appellate division of the judicial depart-EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD00579-01-1 S. 3423 2
ment. The presiding justice of the appellate division of the judicial department shall promulgate such rules or regulations as may be neces- sary to effectuate the purposes of this article. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.