January 9, 2024
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Announces Initiatives to Help Members of Every Community Grow and Thrive in New York 

Governor Hochul Announces Initiatives to Help Members of Every Community Grow and Thrive in New York 

State of the State Proposal Will Support New Yorkers with Disabilities Through Integration, Employment and Independent Living Options

New Commitments to First Nations, Including Funding for Dental Care

Continue New York’s Leadership on Reproductive Rights Through Data Privacy Protections for Abortion Providers

Strengthen Mental Health Care for Veterans

Build On New York's Legacy as Safe Haven For LGBTQ+ and TGNCNB New Yorkers with New Investments in Workforce and Health Care

Increase Chief Diversity Officers Across State Agencies

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a series of actions to help New Yorkers from every community grow and thrive as part of her 2024 State of the State address. These actions include expanding support for New Yorkers with disabilities through increasing integration, employment and independent living opportunities; making new commitments to support indigenous nations; taking action to strengthen data privacy for abortion providers and strengthening services for LGBTQ+ and TGNCNB New Yorkers; and expanding support for and recognition of New York State's veterans. This broad series of actions and proposals builds on Governor Hochul’s legacy of fostering an inclusive environment across the State and will include actions to increase Chief Diversity Officers and trainings at state agencies to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Nearly every major movement for social justice has begun in New York – from Seneca Falls to Stonewall. It’s up to us to continue that legacy,” Governor Hochul said. “These actions will be essential to making sure all New Yorkers are protected, affirmed and accepted.”

Over the last two years, Governor Hochul has championed policies and made investments to support families and lift up the most marginalized New Yorkers. She has fought to protect access to abortion care, signed legislation to make New York a safe haven for LGBTQ+ youth, and began the process to enshrine an Equal Rights Amendment in the New York State constitution.

This year, Governor Hochul will build on those efforts and continue to take action to ensure New Yorkers of all backgrounds have a shot at the American Dream:

Committing to All New Yorkers with Disabilities

New Yorkers with disabilities continue to face hardship when it comes to leading integrated lives, gaining meaningful employment and access to independent living settings. Governor Hochul proposed a series of policies to expand opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities, including:

  • Issue Olmstead Plan for All People with Disabilities. In 2024, New York’s Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council will issue an Olmstead plan to ensure that all people with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. Under the direction of the Office of the Chief Disability Officer and its new Olmstead director, and following community outreach, this plan will include people with physical, sensory, developmental and/or intellectual, mental and behavioral disabilities.
  • Supporting Access to Employment. Employment for people with disabilities lags far behind the general population. New York remains below the U.S. average with only 36.9 percent (2021) of people with disabilities participating in the workforce, compared to 73.8 percent of people without disabilities. The poverty rate among working-age New Yorkers with a disability is more than double those without a disability. To address this challenge, Governor Hochul will issue an Executive Order committing New York to being an Employment First State as it pertains to people with disabilities. The Executive Order will help address this challenge while building on the Governor’s 2023 signing of Executive Order 31 that committed to making New York State a model employer for people with disabilities.
  • Support Access to More Independent Living Settings. This year, Governor Hochul will also pursue legislation that will expand the tasks direct support professionals can perform, thereby allowing more people with developmental disabilities to remain in or transition to more independent settings and decreasing the reliance on certified residential settings. This will result in improved community inclusion and personal outcomes. Currently, direct support professionals in non-certified care settings, such as in the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ self-direction program, can only perform certain nursing tasks under the supervision of a registered nurse, which places an undue burden on people with developmental disabilities who would like to live independently and require minimal nursing support on a routine basis.

Committing to Indigenous Nations

New York’s Indigenous community continues to face issues of health, representation, and education. In order to address these issues, Governor Hochul will:

  • Strengthen Stability of Indigenous Families. The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law created to protect the best interests of Native American children involved in child custody proceedings. The law emerged as a response to the disproportionate rates at which both residential boarding schools and state actors removed Native American children from their homes, communities, and Indigenous Nations. This year, New York’s Deputy Secretary for First Nations and the Office of Children and Family Services, will advance, in consultation with Nation leadership and stakeholders, strategies to strengthen the objectives of the Indian Child Welfare Act, underscoring New York’s commitment to redressing injustices inflicted upon Indigenous communities.
  • Fund Dental Care for First Nations. This year, Governor Hochul will support funding for First Nations dental health care, with the aim of addressing gaps in access. Native American communities are disproportionately impacted by oral disease and dental complications – with Native American adults seeking emergency care at a rate of three and a half times the national average. This funding will help ensure First Nations dental offices and providers can offer treatment without referring patients off-site and away from Nation territories.
  • Respond to Offensive Representations. To ensure that all New Yorkers are welcomed in the State Capitol, Governor Hochul will commence a comprehensive review of artistic representation of Indigenous peoples in the Capitol, with invited participation from representatives from each of the nine Indigenous Nations. All New Yorkers should feel welcome and respected when visiting the Capitol, but unfortunately, offensive imagery and distasteful representations of populations in the art which adorns the Capitol can alienate visitors. Assessments of offensive artistic representations of Indigenous peoples are informed by precedent more than eighty years old, and Indigenous peoples, in particular, are often depicted in artworks in a manner that reflects harmful racial stereotypes and glorifies violence against Indigenous peoples. Such depictions do not reflect the values of New York State.

On Thursday, January 4, Governor Hochul previewed a proposal of her 2024 State of the State by providing a comprehensive six-point plan to combat maternal and infant mortality in New York. Recent CDC statistics revealed an increase in infant mortality – for the first time in over two decades. To address this crisis, Governor Hochul has introduced new policies and legislation to expand access to high-quality prenatal care, reduce costs for mothers and families, fight postpartum depression and support infants in the first months of their lives.

Alleviating Burden and Data Privacy Concerns for Abortion Providers

Governor Hochul will direct the Department of Health to modernize technology for the electronic reporting of induced termination of pregnancy instances in order to eliminate the replication of information from paper to electronic form and provide safeguards for sensitive abortion-related information.

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Governor Hochul has sought to ensure New York State is a safe harbor for those who provide or seek abortion care. As part of last year’s budget, Governor Hochul announced major actions to protect abortion access, including increased Medicaid reimbursement rates, additional data protections for patients seeking reproductive care, coverage of medication abortion by private insurers when prescribed off-label, and $100.7 million in new funding to support abortion providers and reproductive health care. Governor Hochul also signed legislation to allow pharmacists to dispense over-the-counter contraception and to ensure all public colleges and universities in the SUNY and CUNY systems offer access to medication abortion.

Supporting New York Veterans

Governor Hochul will expand the State’s unwavering commitment to New York’s veterans by strengthening protections and support for New York’s veterans. Her proposed actions include:

  • Developing Pocket Card for Providers Serving Veterans. Many medical professionals provide critical health care to veterans, but often lack training or awareness of military cultural competency that can be crucial for effectively interacting with and caring for veterans. To help address this gap, the Department of Veterans’ Services – in partnership with New York’s delegation to the national Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families – will develop a “pocket card” containing information that medical professionals should know when working with a veteran patient. This card can then be shared with medical professionals around the state to help improve interactions with and health outcomes for veteran patients in New York.
  • Supporting Mental Health of Women Veterans. New York State is also home to more than 62,000 women veterans, and the women veteran population is the fastest-growing segment within the U.S. veteran community, expected to comprise 15 percent of the total by 2035. However, women veterans face disproportionately higher rates of suicide compared to both non-veteran women and their male veteran counterparts. To help address the mental health needs of New York’s women veterans, the Department of Veterans’ Services will collaborate with partner agencies and stakeholders to create a specialized toolkit and training program focused on providing mental health support for women veterans. These materials will be made available to veterans’ benefits advisors, veterans service officers, and Veterans Service Organizations around the state who provide direct services to women veterans in New York.
  • Creating Statewide Women Veterans History Trail. To honor the extraordinary legacy of women veterans in New York's history, the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) will develop a statewide Women's Veterans History Trail. Curated by DVS, with input from county and city historians, researchers, Veterans Service Organizations, and local veterans service agencies, the Women Veterans History Trail will showcase sites and stories that highlight the contributions of women in military service throughout New York State's history.

Expanding Funding for Workforce Development and Training for TGNCNB New Yorkers

Governor Hochul will propose an additional $1 million expansion to the Lorena Borjas Transgender and Non-binary Wellness and Equity Fund (TWEF) to support transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary (TGNCNB)-targeted workforce development programming. This comes in response to the New York State Department of Labor's recently released TGNCNB Employment Report, which highlighted numerous obstacles to finding and maintaining employment faced by TGNCNB New Yorkers, ranging from lack of access to training opportunities to experiencing discrimination in the hiring process and the workplace.

In 2022, Governor Hochul and the Legislature took an important step to support the TGNCNB community and address disparities in access to important programs and services by establishing the TWEF. The FY 2023 Enacted Budget included $3 million in funding to support this initiative, and in 2023 Governor Hochul announced an additional $1 million in youth suicide prevention funding expanding TWEF, as well as an additional $5 million in funding for gender affirming senior housing projects that support TGNCNB individuals.

Strengthening Access to Gender-Affirming Care for TGNCNB New Yorkers

To ensure TGNCNB individuals can access the highest quality affirming care in New York and aligning that care with the vision of TWEF, Governor Hochul will direct the Department of Health to update New York State Medicaid’s coverage requirements to align with the newest version of the Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse People, removing unnecessary barriers to affirming care. In addition, the Office of Mental Health will consult with the Departments of Health and Financial Services to issue new guidance to ensure that commercial insurers update medical necessity criteria to incorporate the newest version of the Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse People into their plans.

Transgender and gender diverse individuals often face challenges and barriers to accessing necessary and affirming health services and face worse health outcomes than the general public. Ensuring access to gender affirming care for TGNCNB individuals improves mental and physical health outcomes. New York State has long been a leader in providing access to such care, and as more states around the country take steps to restrict access, it is important for New York State to reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that TGNCNB individuals can find gender affirming care in our state.

Strengthen LGBTQ+ Cultural Competency

To expand opportunities for key providers to receive LGBTQ+ cultural competency training, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance will for the first time make its LGBTQ+ cultural competency training available to local contracted service providers throughout the state and will continue to encourage all local departments of social services staff to complete the training. Ensuring that more New Yorkers understand the experience of LGBTQ+ individuals and feel comfortable with the use of respectful language relating to the LGBTQ+ community is an important step towards reducing incidents of perceived bias or discrimination, particularly in settings where LGBTQ+ individuals are seeking access to important services or benefits.

Increasing Chief Diversity Officers Across State Agencies

In order to strengthen and increase capacity for diversity, equity, and inclusion across the New York State workforce, and ensure New York is leading by example, Governor Hochul will direct executive-controlled agencies with more than 300 full-time employees to hire a Chief Diversity Officer or other equivalent position that is dedicated full-time to diversity, equity, and inclusion work if the agency does not already have one. Additionally, Governor Hochul will direct the Office of Employee Relations, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, to develop a DEI training for all State employees and the Department of Civil Service, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, to develop and provide anti-racism training.

Research has shown that diverse and inclusive workplaces outperform their peers, are more successful at recruiting and retaining talent, are more innovative and able to solve problems, and employees have better job satisfaction and commitment to the organization. Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, New York has made significant strides in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, there is still more work to do to ensure that the state’s public sector workforce reflects the diversity of New York and advances inclusion and equity for all.

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