Four New York State Commissioners to Hold "People First" Listening Forum June 19 at Roswell Park Cancer Institute

State Agencies Seek to Improve Coordination of Care Across Respective Systems

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 - Michael F. Hogan, PhD, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health; Richard F. Daines, M.D., Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health; Diana Jones Ritter, Commissioner of the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities; and Karen Carpenter-Palumbo, Commissioner of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, will be conducting a "People First" Listening Forum on Tuesday, June 19 from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute's David C. Hohn, M.D. Lecture Hall.

"People First" Listening Forums are being conducted across New York State, to obtain grassroots input from the people who use multiple services in the areas of health care, addiction, mental health, and developmental disabilities and their families. Conducted in a "town meeting" format, they are part of Governor Spitzer's efforts to put people and their needs at the center of New York's systems of care. With better insight into people's needs, the Commissioners plan to develop methods of improving and coordinating support for people who have needs across the systems of care.

Forums have already been held in New Paltz and New York City; and in addition to the Buffalo forum, others are scheduled to be held in Syracuse on June 20, and Plattsburgh on July 13.

OMH Commissioner Hogan said, "Governor Spitzer's vision is for a health system that is person-centered, not focused on the needs of institutions. We face that challenge within each of the service systems represented here, and additionally we must break down the 'silos' that create barriers to integrated care. We know that mental health is critical to overall health, but also that mental health recovery requires overall wellness."

OMRDD Commissioner Diana Jones Ritter said, "New Yorkers who have multiple disabilities including developmental disabilities must have access to high quality care that assures their various and continuing needs are met. I am committed to working together with my sister agencies toward a more seamless service system that puts the person receiving services first and provides each individual with opportunities and choices for and about their own care. The first two forums held in New Paltz and Queens have been very informative. I look forward to receiving more grassroots input as we continue to hear from people across the state on how we can better meet their needs."

OASAS Commissioner Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo said, "Nearly halfway through the "People First" Forums, we have already learned a great deal from New Yorkers about the diversity of their health care needs. My colleagues and I appreciate the more than 1,200 citizens who have attended the forums. Every comment is important to us and will help us put forth a comprehensive plan to improve access and quality of care for all New Yorkers, including the 1.8 million with substance abuse problems."

DOH Commissioner Richard F. Daines said, "Access to appropriate, high-quality care is our goal for all New Yorkers in need. Often the people using these services are in the best position to advise us on the changes they need. I look forward to hearing from the people in their communities to spark the innovative solutions we seek."

Phil Endress, Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Mental Health said, "We are hopeful that as a result of the "People First Listening forums," the state agencies represented will encourage and support new and more integrated approaches to better address the complex health and behavioral health needs of all New Yorkers. By first listening, we are confident that the Commissioners will better understand these needs and the challenges that are faced by individuals accessing the current array of fragmented services. New integrated service models will be a major first step toward improving the overall health of Western New York."

Anthony J. Billittier, IV, MDFACEP, Commissioner, Erie County Department of Health said, "Governor Spitzer and his health and mental hygiene commissioners are to be commended for their bold and brave leadership efforts to bridge the gaps in services to individuals with complex, multiple needs. We cannot continue to treat individuals as separate pieces. Instead, we need to encompass the entire person in order to make that person whole again."

The "People First" Forums will be webcast live, and links for viewing are available on each of the agencies' Websites. In addition, people who are unable to attend, but want to provide feedback on coordinated care in New York State, can send email directly to the following addresses:


  • Jill Daniels (OMH) - 518-474-6540, 518-817-2880 (cell)
  • Deborah Sturm Rausch (OMRDD) - 518-474-6601
  • Jeffrey Hammond (DOH) - 716-847-4302
  • Dianne Henk (OASAS) - 518-485-1768