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PEF opposes OCFS consolidation, closures at budget hearing

By KATE MOSTACCIO

PEF provided strong testimony against Executive Budget proposals that seek to close or consolidate four Office of Children and Family Services Multi-Services Offices (CMSOs) and to close four facilities for at-risk youth.

“In order to achieve $1.8 million in savings, the governor proposes the consolidation of four CMSOs,” PEF President Wayne Spence stated in written testimony submitted to the Human Services Joint Legislative Budget Hearing panel February 9. “These regional facilities provide community supervision and family engagement and support services for troubled youth in residential placement and after their return to the community.”

The proposal calls for closing the Binghamton and Watertown offices and consolidating New York City offices into a single facility in Brooklyn. This move would require increased travel for children in need, which could jeopardize their ability to access services.

“These programs are tailored to address the needs of troubled youth who are often confronted with the most challenging personal and familial situations,” Spence said. “Many of these children do not have support to meet their most basic needs, let alone transportation to and from a social service facility 90 minutes away.”

The Executive Budget also aims to save money by closing four facilities – the Goshen Secure Center, Red Hook Non-Secure Residential Center, Brentwood Non-Secure Center, and Columbia Secure Center – arguing crime is down and only 50 of the 142 beds are occupied.

“The challenge with this argument is that the data on crime is looking back, not forward,” Spence stated. “In fact, law enforcement officials around the country are sounding an alarm about the rise in juvenile offenses stemming mainly from the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns and remote learning.”

PEF’s testimony outlined the unique and highly specialized care these facilities provide their clients and expressed concern with integrating these youth into other facilities.

“We urge the Legislature to reject the closure of these youth facilities and to recommit to investing in these and other programs that deliver needed services to  help these troubled youth stay out of the criminal justice system and lead productive lives,” Spence stated.

To view the full testimony, click here.