Community Access' Advocacy and Public Policy Department, launched in 1996, uniquely trains and empowers mental health consumers to engage in activities that help shape the city, state, and national mental health policies that can lead to system-wide change.
By presenting testimony before city and state legislators and working in coalition with other mental health and supportive housing providers such as the Supportive Housing Network (SHNNY) and NYAPRS, Community Access influences legislation that protects access to safe, affordable housing and advocates for policies that protect the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities.
-- In our leadership role in the New York State Campaign for Mental Health Housing, we advocated for a 10-year plan to build 35,000 units of new housing and preserve and reform the 30,000 existing units.
-- Community Accessâ€™s Pet Access Program sparked the idea for a Pet Law brochure describing how people with psychiatric disabilities can keep their pets and their apartments despite a "no pets" clause lease. CA and MFY Legal Services co-wrote and distributed brochures to prevent evictions of people with mental illness who have pets.
-- For five years Community Access has been at the forefront of the "Boot the SHU" bill, which ends the practice of placing prisoners with mental illness into isolation cells (otherwise known as Special Housing Units). In consortium with other mental health providers, CA has been advocating for new housing facilities in state prisons to accommodate people with psychiatric disabilities as an alternative to solitary confinement.
-- Community Access's local housing sites host legislative events to introduce our tenants to Community Board members and local politicans and to educate about the need for supportive housing.
-- We are co-sponsors to the Annual New York City Mental Health Film Festival.
Since 2005 alone, we have worked with over 60 government agencies and nonprofit organizations in New York City, Ohio, Illinois, and even Australia to develop housing and workforce projects that expand employment and housing opportunities for people living with severe and persistent mental illness.
The agency's CEO is also an active volunteer member on several boards, including the Supportive Housing Network of New York (executive committee), the Association for Community Living (past president), NAMI Metro-NYC, the New York State Campaign for Mental Health Housing (founder), and the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (special projects).