Access to Recovery Coalition
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The Access to Recovery Coalition is for New Yorkers who live with significant mental health concerns*, as well as their loved ones and allies. We prioritize the perspectives of directly impacted people over those of allies, and we also seek and embrace allied support. We primarily work with people living in the five boroughs of New York City (the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan). However, the systems we seek to improve are both in the boroughs and Statewide.
In New York, there is a Medicaid plan called a “Health and Recovery Plan”, or Medicaid HARP. The Plan is meant to offer a range of supports so that a person can define their own path to recovery. These supports are also available to some people with a Medicaid HIV Special Needs Plan (HIV-SNP). Medicaid HARP and some HIV-SNPs offer expanded mental health wellness supports such as care coordination, help with finding peer supports, family supports, job training, transportation, and more. Supports available aim to offer enough help that people can stay in community, and out of often traumatizing institutions like hospitals, nursing homes, jails, and prisons.
Unfortunately, despite State efforts such as the Regional Planning Consortiums, this plan continues to operate largely without the voice of directly impacted people. The number of people accessing these benefits remains disappointingly low. A2R believes that this critical on-the-ground input is key to improving the number of eligible recipients who successfully navigate this complicated system.
A2R operates on the core principle that people trying to access these benefits, as well as on-the-ground professionals such as peers and case managers, are best positioned to assist the State in ensuring that Medicaid HARP and HIV-SNP function as intended. Namely, that the benefits truly assist individuals seeking person-centered recovery through supports that are effective and accessible in an individual’s home or community.
A2R is individual and collective, as well as short term and long term. Individually and in the short term, A2R is about making space for directly impacted people to define their own individual paths to recovery using Medicaid systems as they are. In other words, helping individuals access their own benefits. Collectively and in the long term, A2R is about building power and changing Medicaid systems so that they work better for everyone navigating mental health recovery supports in New York.
However, the path to receiving these supports has many steps.
Those who have Medicaid HARP or HIV-SNP discover that there is a huge learning curve to understanding how to access the benefits – there are multiple steps, agencies, advocates, and people involved. Due to social issues such as lack of stable housing, communication resources, or adequate mental or social supports, people who need the benefits the most are not usually well-positioned to navigate the multi-layered system without some help. Unfortunately, providers and insurance plan staff paid to assist people in these plans to access the supports are themselves frequently undertrained or misinformed. Providers and advocates often unintentionally give misinformation to HARP and HIV-SNP recipients about how to access supports. The State has not produced accessible materials to explain step-by-step how to access supports through HARP or HIV-SNP.
Further, the State pre-defines who can access the Plan based on an algorithm that is most responsive to individuals who have already experienced crises and institutional exposure in their lives. There is no way to apply for Medicaid HARP for an individual seeking to prevent such an experience, or for someone who may qualify but the administrative systems have missed this person.
We at A2R are dedicated to learning from one another, building community relationships and power, and changing these systems to work better for everyone. Join us at a meeting – you are welcome to come and just listen. Or, come and have your voice heard!
A2R meets by video and call conference the first Thursday of every month. To get involved with the A2R Coalition, please reach out to Frankie Herrmann at 646-459-3076 or firstname.lastname@example.org
*Language is important. Respectful, inclusive, and accurate phrasing is an ongoing conversation in mental health justice communities. A2R welcomes input on language and phrasing from directly impacted people.