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Ann Marie T. Sullivan, M.D., Commissioner
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

State Office of Mental Health Releases Regional
Centers of Excellence Plan to Transform New York’s
Public Mental Health System

Plan Developed Following More than Two Months of State-wide Listening Tours and Over 2,000 Public Comments

Albany, NY– The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) today released a three year plan to transform the public mental health system. Under the Plan, OMH will shift the emphasis of its resources from costly long term inpatient treatment provided at over 24 hospitals to a state-of-the-art network of 15 Regional Centers of Excellence. The Regional Centers of Excellence Plan was developed after OMH met with over 30 communities throughout the state and received over 2,000 public comments.

“The time has come to fundamentally change the way we think about mental health in New York State,” Office of Mental Health Acting Commissioner Kristin M. Woodlock said. “Working together with communities, we can and will change the outdated and costly way we serve individuals with mental illness. It is not an option to let outside forces define what our health care system will look like. As New Yorkers, we are courageous and determined to take the lead in moving our behavioral health system towards excellence.”

Each Regional Center will offer the finest, highly specialized inpatient treatment available for those with the most serious forms of mental illness and will bring behavioral health services into line with other regionalized healthcare resources throughout the state. In addition to providing inpatient care at the Regional Center's primary location, multiple community service hubs will be available throughout each region. OMH will operate an expanded and intensive array of community based treatment, support and care monitoring based on local needs.

An important part of the Regional Centers of Excellence Plan is ensuring continuity of employment for the staff of facilities affected by reorganization. To do so, the Office of Mental Health will:

The Plan spans a three (3) year time frame. A multi-year plan provides needed time for community-level planning and priority setting, staff training as well as establishment of support services in the community. Predictability and future vision will help to align the resources needed to achieve the intended outcomes from Regional Centers of Excellence.

In the next three years, OMH will establish fifteen (15) Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) across the State. Each RCE will have a specialized inpatient hospital program located at its center with a network of state-operated community-based services operating throughout their region. A community service “hub” will be located in geographically distinct areas of the region.

Over the past few months the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) met with over 30 communities, members of the Legislature and labor unions to explain the forces of change that are upon the mental health system. During the Listening Tour, OMH shared their vision to strategically position OMH for the future. Thousands of comments were received, which have been essential to the formation of this plan and will guide us in its implementation. New Yorkers registered excitement about the future and concerns about access to service, gaps in the system, employment and impact of decommissioning buildings upon cities.

The release of this plan coupled with the required legislative notice of significant service reduction, consolidation or closure, marks the start of a multi-year transformation. Regional implementation priorities and work plans will begin to be established in August with the formation of RCE Teams. Implementation will commence in July 2014.

To view the Office of Mental Health Regional Center of Excellence Plan, please visit:

Appendix 1 presents OMH Regional Centers of Excellence at its full implementation in 2017.

Appendix 2 presents the Key Points of Regional Centers of Excellence.

Appendix 1: RCE Full Implementation Chart

Western New York Region
Regional Center of Excellence Location Inpatient Services State Operated Community Service Hubs
Great Lakes RCE Buffalo, NY Adult, Child, Adolescent Elmira
Western New York Forensic Center of Excellence Rochester, NY Forensic Adult  

Central New York Region
Regional Center of Excellence Location Inpatient Services State Operated Community Service Hubs
Empire Upstate RCE Syracuse, NY Adult Ogdensburg
  Utica, NY Child and Adolescent Binghamton
Central New York Forensic Center of Excellence Marcy, NY Forensic Adult, SOMTA Statewide Outpatient in Prisons
  Ogdensburg, NY SOMTA  

Hudson River Region
Regional Center of Excellence Location Inpatient Services State Operated Community Service Hubs
Capital District RCE Albany, NY Adult Albany
Lower Hudson RCE Orangeburg, NY Adult, Child, Adolescent Orangeburg
  Westchester County
Nathan Kline Research Center of Excellence Orangeburg, NY Adult  

New York City Region
Regional Center of Excellence Location Inpatient Services State Operated Community Service Hubs
Greater New York Children’s RCE Bronx, NY Child, Adolescent Bronx
  Queens, NY Child, Adolescent Queens
  Dix Hills (Serving Nassau and Suffolk)
Bronx RCE Bronx, NY Adult Bronx
  Upper Manhattan
Brooklyn RCE Brooklyn, NY Adult Brooklyn
South Beach RCE Staten Island, NY Adult, Adolescent Staten Island
  Lower Manhattan
Queens RCE Queens, NY Adult Queens
New York Psychiatric Institute Research Center of Excellence Manhattan, NY Adult Washington Heights
Manhattan Forensic Center of Excellence Ward’s Island, NY Forensic Adult  

Long Island Region
Regional Center of Excellence Location Inpatient Services State Operated Community Service Hubs
Island RCE Brentwood, NY Adult Brentwood (Serving Nassau and Suffolk)

Appendix 2: Key Points: Regional Centers of Excellence

  1. First and foremost, the redesign of the public mental health system must be good for the children, adults and families we serve.
  2. We know how to promote resiliency in young people with serious emotional disturbance and how to promote recovery from serious mental illness for adults.
  3. Through providing access to early care across the lifespan we can reduce suffering and improve health with the best return on our investment.
  4. Behavioral health services are provided by primary care, specialty community providers, the Department of Veterans Affairs, county government and New York State. Services are financially supported through private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, philanthropy, private grants as well as Federal, State and County funds. None of us stand in isolation and our system of the future must come together to seamlessly meet the needs of the individuals and families we serve. Improving the health, resiliency and recovery of those with mental illness through a high return on investment is our collective responsibility.
  5. Improved access to safe and affordable housing for individuals with a mental illness is essential and will require action on the part of OMH and others.
  6. The role for OMH state-operated services in the future is as a highly specialized provider focused on the treatment and support of individuals and families who encounter the most complex and challenging forms of mental illness.
  7. Choice in health care is paramount. This plan includes the elimination of catchment areas, allowing individuals and families to make their own choices about where they will receive specialty behavioral health treatment.
  8. OMH staff are ready to change. We heard about very innovative and effective services while on the Listening Tour. Across the State, staff are leading the way with Community Support Teams, Wellness Centers, integration of care with pediatricians and partnerships with local housing providers.
  9. Continuity of employment for our workforce will be supported by:
    • Transferring continuing inpatient positions to the Regional Center of Excellence where services will be located.
    • Prioritizing voluntary transfer of current OMH employees to vacant positions within the OMH system.
    • Offering transfer to other State Agencies.
    • Retraining impacted OMH employees for alternative employment.
  10. Accountability and transparency in the implementation of this plan is essential to successfully shift the State’s behavioral health services from inpatient to community-based services. OMH will establish an implementation structure for Regional Centers of Excellence that mirrors the Medicaid Redesign Team plan. There will be a statewide leadership team and an operations team in each of the five (5) OMH regions. Membership on each Regional Centers of Excellence Team (RCE Team) will be by invitation, including representation from peers and family, providers, labor unions, Regional Economic Development Councils, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, and stakeholders with a membership limit of 15 people. These teams will be charged with overseeing the implementation of the Regional Centers of Excellence plan.