Congressman Dan Goldman on Thursday, January 19, 2023 at the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice in New York City.
Photo courtesy of Congressman Goldman’s office.
Just over a year since Michelle Alyssa Go was tragically pushed to her death by a mentally ill man at the Times Square subway station, Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10) said he plans to introduce legislation that would expand access to mental health care.
Goldman announced Thursday that it would introduce the bill, dubbed the Michelle Alyssa Go Act, at the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice in Manhattan. The bill is currently being finalized.
The Michelle Alyssa Go Act targets a Medicaid ban, known as the Institution for Mental Diseases, that prohibits Medicaid from covering long-term stays for patients ages 21 to 64 who are in a facility with more than mental health or substance abuse problems 16 beds are treated. The bill would remove that exclusion and give mental health facilities an incentive to make room for people with serious mental illness.
He was joined by Congressman Jerry Nadler, Member of Parliament Grace Lee (D-65), representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City, the Treatment Advocacy Center, and Council members Erik Bottcher, Carlina Rivera and Keith Powers.
Former Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was also present at Thursday’s announcement. She introduced the bill to the last Congress. Goldman will present it in this session.
“This law will allow mental health facilities to be reimbursed by Medicaid if they have more than 16 beds dedicated to the treatment of mental illness,” Goldman said. “By doing so, we are increasing the services that are actually in demand.”
The bill would remove the age limit for reimbursement for medical services, allowing IMD patients between the ages of 22 and 64 to be eligible for Medicaid reimbursement. It would also allow any facility to qualify as an IMD, regardless of bed count, so long as the facility primarily treats people with mental illness and meets national standards set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Both the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City and the Treatment Advocacy Center are lobbying for passage of the Michelle Alyssa Go Act.
NAMI-NYC director of policy Kimberly Blair called the IMD exclusion “arbitrary,” while Brian Stettin, policy director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, recently pointed out the “appalling shortage” of in-patient psychiatric beds and community-based in-patient treatment facilities.
“Michelle Go’s horrific murder was preventable,” said Councilor Bottcher, whose district includes Times Square. “Such is the suffering of countless Americans with untreated mental illness. It is unconscionable that current federal law prohibits Medicaid from covering most impatient mental health services.”
The exclusion has been in effect since Medicaid’s inception in 1965, preventing people like Martial Simon, the man who killed Go, from accessing medical care. Simon was diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been in and out of the city’s protection system for two decades, his family had said. Most homeless New Yorkers lack the money to pay for these services out of pocket, Goldman said.
“The man had previously sought psychiatric treatment but was turned away because there were no beds available for him,” Goldman said. “This legislation is an important piece in addressing the mental health crisis we are experiencing, which has increased in severity since the COVID pandemic.”