Good morning, Chair Schulman, Chair Lee, and members of the Committees on Health and Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction.
Thank you for your leadership on the City Council and for the opportunity to testify. I’m Jody Rudin, CEO of the Institute for Community Living, or ICL.
ICL serves about 13,000 children, families, and adults experiencing significant mental health challenges, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. We take a person-centered, trauma informed, whole-health approach to our work in clinics, shelters, residences, and community-based programs.
I’m here to talk about the city’s mental health crisis and what needs to be done to ensure we can implement the ambitious– and much needed plan- put forth by Mayor Adams.
The plan includes smart interventions—more support for youth, increased access to addiction and harm reduction services, and more programs for people living with the most serious mental health challenges, including the expansion of IMT teams that provide the best whole-health supports to the hardest to reach and hardest to treat, mostly unhoused individuals. I mean it. ICL’s IMT teams have housed 56% of our clients and reduced incarceration by 30%.
The necessary expansion of programs cannot be achieved without a substantial investment in our woefully underpaid workforce. Turnover levels are astronomical—sometimes over 50%. And we struggle to hire staff that’s the experience of every provider. And without providers, the mayor’s plan will only exist on paper.
We need more funding to pay staff and to achieve pay parity with state funded programs that cannibalize our City-funded workforce with more generous workforce investments. We are similarly beginning to see employees leave ICL for the City, following the wage increases resulting from the DC37 agreement. Our very serious mental health crisis can only be addressed with the support of human services workers. We need the Council and Mayor to do right by these workers and pay them more.