Monday, July 23, 2012

Children's Mental Health Summit September 27-29

Sponsored in part by Contact Community Services, David B. Falk College of Sport & Human Dynamics (SU), and Gifford Foundation

Register on-line at   
A two-day symposium for clinicians, educators, researchers, students, and parents.
Only $75 total for 2 day registration..  Only $10 for thursday night event

 Thursday 9/27 - pre-conference evening film and panel discussion 6:30-9:30pm (location TBD)
with Dr. Peter Breggin, Dr. Andrew Kaufman, Robert Whitaker, Sharna Olfman, Jacqueline Sparks, Giovan Bazan, Kevin Miller

Friday 9/28  Hutchings Psychiatric Center Auditorium  8:30-4:30 

Saturday 9/29  Crowne Plaza Syracuse 8:45-4:30

Experts from across the country will present on topics such as:
Small black square    TRAUMA and ATTACHMENT                             Small black square    FOSTER CARE

Small black square    SYSTEMS CHANGE/REFORM                           Small black square    PLAY

Small black square    PSYCHIATRIC MEDICATIONS                          Small black square     EDUCATION

Small black square    ADHD, BIPOLAR, ODD, etc.                            Small black square    MINDFULNESS

Small black square    SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING                      Small black square    NUTRITION

Small black square    SAFE & EFFECTIVE APPROACHES                    Small black square    DSM

Small black square    EMPATHIC THERAPY

   FAMILY THERAPY                                               Small black square    PLAY THERAPY

Sunday, July 22, 2012

cellus sits on $1.26 billion emergency fund as it seeks double-digit rate increases

Post-Standard featured the following article: As it seeks double-digit rate increases, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is sitting on a $1.26 billion rainy day fund to cover higher than expected claims.
Even though Excellus has nearly twice as much in reserves than the state requires, the health insurer does not want to use any of that money to offset rate increases, according to documents the company has submitted to the state justifying its request to increase rates by as much as 20 percent next year on some health plans.
Instead, it wants members to contribute even more to that fund.
Under its proposal, Excellus would take anywhere from $5.52 to $11.95 a month from some members’ premium payments and add that money to its reserves. Customers in one plan, the company's direct pay HMO, would pay nothing into the
reserve fund because Excellus is seeing a rate decrease for that product.
“These reserves are the ‘insurance’ that assures payment even when costs run higher than anticipated, or emergencies or disasters occur, and should not be used as an alternative fund to temporarily reduce rate adjustments,” Excellus says in documents filed with the state Department of Financial Services.
Excellus is seeking permission from state regulators to increase rates on some of its community-rated products Jan. 1. Community-rated plans for individuals and groups are policies that charge the same amount regardless of age, sex, health status or occupation. The proposed rate changes will affect about 90,000 of the company’s 700,000 members in Central New York. The increases do not apply to experience-rated large groups or self-insured plans.
The documents related to health insurers’ rate hike requests used to be secret. But late last year the state ordered insurers to make them public so customers can review them and submit comments to regulators who decide whether to grant the increases, reduce or reject them.
Excellus has come under criticism for amassing a big reserve fund while consumers struggle to afford health insurance.
“It’s a disservice to consumers that they’re (Excellus) not using their reserves to defray some of the proposed rate increase,” said Elisabeth R. Benjamin, a lawyer and co-founder of Health Care for All New York, a statewide coalition of more than 130 nonprofit groups pushing for more affordable health insurance options for state residents. “We would submit the state should not permit the rate increase to further allow this carrier to stockpile its reserves.”
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, issued a report in 2010 that said Excellus and other BlueCross BlueShield plans across the country were salting away more money than necessary in their reserve funds. At that point, Excellus had $965.1 million in reserves.
Since then its reserve fund has grown by more than 30 percent.
Money in the fund comes from the company’s surplus or profits.
A portion of every rate increase by insurers is usually earmarked as a contribution to reserves, said Laurie Sobel, a senior attorney with Consumers Union. That’s why regulators reviewing a rate increase request need to look at an insurer’s reserve levels, she said. If those levels are excessive, regulators can protect consumers from unnecessary rate increases by disallowing additional contributions to reserves, she said.
The minimum amount of reserves Excellus must have to meet state requirements is $703 million.
That amount would not give Excellus, which has nearly 2 million members, a sufficient cushion, said Elizabeth Martin, a company spokeswoman.
“That’s like saying to someone that they should strive to have a minimum amount in their savings account, but that might not be enough if suddenly they need to cover large unforeseen expenses,” Martin said.
Excellus has about $792 in reserves per member, enough to cover claims for about three months, she said. The average amount of reserves per member held by other upstate nonprofit insurers is $1,179, she said.
Excellus last dipped into its reserves in 2008. It used $244 million from the fund to offset higher than expected medical expenses, declining enrollment and investment losses. If the fund had been at the minimum level the company would have had to impose steep rate increases in 2009, Martin said.
Excellus made a profit of $223 million in 2011 on revenue of $5.7 billion. The 2011 profit was about five times bigger than the $44.5 million profit it made in 2010. It also tripled the pay last year of its top executive to $5.2 million.
In its pending rate filing, Excellus says its proposed increases are designed to allow the company “ ... to achieve a modest operating margin.”
Excellus says it is “... sensitive to the fact that individuals and small businesses struggle to afford higher premiums.” But it warns that failure by regulators to approve the rate hike request would lead to the need for even greater increases in the future.
Excellus says the escalating cost of health care services, equipment and products continues to be the primary reason for rate increases.
In its filing, Excellus says rate increases are being driven by a combination of higher costs and greater use of medical services and equipment by consumers.
Health insurers come up with spending forecasts by multiplying the anticipated increase in cost of a medical service by the rate of consumption or use of the service or product. This is known as the “medical trend,” a measure of medical inflation.
Excellus is forecasting spending next year will increase 9.6 percent to 12.7 percent for hospital outpatient services, 7.8 percent to 8.7 percent for hospital inpatient services, 3.1 percent to 7.1 percent for professional services such as doctor office visits, and 5.7 percent to 7.9 percent for drugs.
The public has until Aug. 11 to submit comments to the state about the proposed rate changes.
Comments can be submitted online, by email to or by mail to: Charles Lovejoy, Health Bureau, New York State Department of Financial Services, 25 Beaver St., New York, NY 10004.

Proposed rate increases
Here are the rate increases proposed by Excellus BlueCross/Blue Shield:
High-deductible health plans, Preferred Provider Organization: Up to 19.9 percent
Direct pay indemnity plans purchased by individuals: Up 12.3 percent
Direct pay Health Maintenance Organization and Point of Service: Decrease 3.4 percent.
ValuMed Plus, a policy for individuals on limited incomes: Up 14.1 percent
Healthy New York, another plan for individuals with limited income: Up 3.6 percent.
Medicare Supplemental plans: Down 0.5 percent.
Source: Excellus

Monday, July 16, 2012

Youth Development Program Wins CNY85 Giving Project Grant

July 16, 2012 –Orenda Springs Experiential Learning Center is the winner of an $8,500 grant from the Central New York Community Foundation after successfully garnering the most public votes in The CNY85 Giving Project. Thirty-four organizations were competing in the online vote, which ran the entire month of June. Nearly 50,000 votes were cast by the time polls closed.

Orenda Springs, a 130 acre "Classroom in the Woods," uses nature trails, a rock climbing wall, a natural amphitheater, group camping sites and a ropes course to help children practice their skills in perseverance, initiative, problem-solving, trust and courage. The organization will provide 200 local middle and high school students with the opportunity to participate in a day-long empowerment program at the facility. Activities include a low and high element ropes course where students learn to overcome their insecurities. The grant will be used to provide transportation, programming and food for eight trips of 25 students each.

The CNY85 Giving Project was created to engage the public in the Community Foundation’s 85-year anniversary celebration while also drawing attention to the many nonprofit organizations benefiting Central New York. The online campaign encourages visitors to its website – – to vote for a project once a day during the designated month. The Community Foundation hopes that those who participate in voting are inspired to get more involved in their community – either monetarily or through some form of volunteerism. A full list of the projects that have participated so far can be viewed at

The month of June was the second of four voting periods The CNY85 Giving Project will open to the public over the course of the year. The June round featured human service, health and health projects. Future rounds will feature projects that address education and technology (September) and arts, culture and civic leadership (December).

The winner of The Giving Project's first round, which featured environmental, economic development and transportation projects, was the Madison County Office for the Aging. The organization won the grant for its elderly medical transportation program, which provides frail, isolated elderly with rides to their physicians, eye care professionals, pharmacies and other medical-related appointments.

 “We see The CNY85 Giving Project is an opportunity for the public to learn about some of the outstanding nonprofit programs being offered here in Central New York,” said Peter Dunn, President and CEO of the Community Foundation. “The Project is a celebration of our 85-year anniversary, but we also want it to draw attention to the many other nonprofit organizations engaged in a variety of activities to make Central New York a great place to live and work. We hope that those who participate in voting are inspired to get more involved in their community.”

Nonprofit organizations must enter their projects into the contest in order to participate. The Community Foundation is now accepting applications for its third round, featuring projects that address Central New York’s education and technology needs, until July 31. Nonprofit organizations that serve Onondaga and/or Madison Counties are invited to enter by submitting a simple online form. To view the Project’s full calendar and learn how to apply, visit  

About CNYVitals
Each round features projects of different themes based on findings of a community indicators project, CNYVitals. The community indicators were the result of a collaborative effort between Syracuse University's Maxwell School, FOCUS Greater Syracuse, the Central New York Community Foundation, city and county municipalities and a host of community-based organizations that have signed on to help gather and analyze the data on Central New York’s greatest needs.
The resulting data is a snapshot of Central New York's current state of affairs within various interest areas. The architects of the project hope that making this information available to the general public will inspire collaborative discussion and action to address the community's most pressing needs while also focusing funding and programming on projects and initiatives that will have the greatest positive impact on the region. All of the data can be viewed and contributed to at   

About the Central New York Community Foundation
This year, the Central New York Community Foundation celebrates its 85-year anniversary. Founded in 1927, it strives to inspire philanthropy in Central New York by connecting the generosity of donors with community needs - making grants to organizations working to enhance the quality of life of those who live and work in Central New York from nearly 600 charitable endowment funds that it manages. Grants are awarded for programs in the areas of human services, arts and culture, education, environment, health, economic development and civic affairs. As the region’s largest endowed philanthropic foundation, the Community Foundation awards more than $5 million in grants to nonprofit organizations annually. The Community Foundation is located at 431 East Fayette Street, Syracuse, NY 13202 and can be reached at (315) 422-9538 or

Sunday, July 15, 2012

PILOT Issue for Nonprofits in Syracuse Related to Recent City Council Vote

Two veteran Syracuse councilors corralled freshman Councilor Jake Barrett and tried one last time to change his mind.
The council had been summoned Monday to vote on an extraordinary 30-year tax exemption for a new Syracuse University bookstore, a controversial deal that could set a precedent for other projects.
Lawmakers were deeply divided.
Four councilors supported the tax deal for developer Cameron Group LLC, saying it would bring in revenue the city would not get otherwise.
Four councilors opposed the deal, calling it needlessly generous.
For weeks, they waited for Barrett, who was leaning toward approval, to break the tie. Now the vote was three hours away.
Majority Leader Lance Denno and Majority Whip Pat Hogan — both of whom hated the deal — met Barrett and “talked to him at length” in an effort to sway him, Hogan said.
They asked Barrett how he would explain to working class constituents that he supported a tax break benefiting a well-heeled developer and a richly endowed university. They questioned why the project needed a tax break to succeed in one of the city’s most vibrant commercial districts.
Barrett was sympathetic. The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal was far too long at 30 years, he said. And Barrett was annoyed at the way the measure was rushed to a vote, resulting in last-minute revisions.
But Barrett voted yes.
Afterward, he told a reporter the decision was too painful to talk about.
The next day, he offered this: Barrett said his main concern was to show that the city could pull the trigger on a novel agreement involving a major tax-exempt institution — imperfect though the deal may be.
That signal was important to send, he said, because the city will need help from big nonprofits like hospitals and colleges as it addresses looming budget deficits.
Still, it pained Barrett to vote against his impassioned colleagues.
“There was a wound that happened,” he said. “I could see it in their eyes when the vote came down.”
Architectural rendering of Cameron Group LLC's proposed new building on University Avenue that would house a Syracuse University bookstore, fitness center for students and SU workers, and retail stores.

Hours after the vote, Barrett arrived home to find a voicemail from Tom Valenti, a principal at Cameron Group, who has spent six years seeking approval for the bookstore project.
As Barrett recalled it the next day, Valenti’s message said, “Jake, I think I know what you went through. And I’m not going to let you down.”
Opponents of the deal think the council let taxpayers down.
Hogan said the tax deal benefits nobody but SU and Valenti’s firm, and he was disappointed he could not convince Barrett to oppose it.
“It’s difficult for a freshman legislator to stand up to the powerful interests in this town,” Hogan said.

Seeking nonprofits’ dollars
Syracuse is dangerously close to the edge of a financial cliff, most officials agree, and part of the problem is that more than half of all property in the city is exempt from taxation.
A year ago, Syracuse University acknowledged that problem and agreed to pay the city $500,000 a year for five years to help offset the cost of city services that benefit the university.
Mayor Stephanie Miner said her goal was to get other major nonprofits to contribute similar payments. Four months ago, Miner sent letters to the leaders of several hospitals and colleges urging them to “work with us to execute a mutually agreeable service agreement.”
Thus far, she has not announced any new agreements.
A month before those letters went out, Miner said the SU bookstore PILOT, which had been talked about for years, was being revised in a way that could serve as a model for wringing more revenue from tax-exempt institutions than they would normally pay.
Under the PILOT agreement, Cameron Group will pay 17 percent of full taxes. Over 30 years, that’s expected to bring in about $1.9 million for the city and county, while saving the developer more than $9 million.
Cameron Group will lease the bookstore site for $1 from SU. If the university built and owned the bookstore, the property would be taxed only on portions of the building leased to commercial interests, expected to be about 8.5 percent of the total area. That would yield half as much tax revenue as Cameron Group will pay.
Critics say the bookstore deal is a loser for the city. Former city assessor John Gamage said the project should be treated like any other commercial development. The lengthy tax break given to Cameron Group is “outrageous,” he said.

Read more here.