OASAS/PEF STATEWIDE L/M MEETING MINUTES
1450 WESTERN AVENUE, ALBANY, NY
MARCH 25, 2005
Deborah Egel, Co-Chair Shari Noonan, Acting Commissioner
Vernetta Chesimard, Co-Chair Thomas Torino, Chair
John Connery, Field Representative Jeffrey Cleary
William Cruz Neil Grogin
Glenn Kirkland Francis Harding
Gerald Miller Thomas Montgomery
Miguel Morales Thomas Nightingale
Michele Schultz Stephen Richman
Jackie Wooden Monica Wilson
Josephine Rice, Recorder
Management provided an update on the status of the 2005-06 Budget (not yet enacted as of the date of the meeting), saying that a solid OASAS budget was proposed by the Governor, with some additional items added and no Legislative cuts being proposed in final Budget negotiations. The Governor’s State Operations Budget proposals for OASAS would: maintain current Agency staffing levels, including the 13 ATCs; cover the cost of negotiated salary increases; and provide for inflationary cost increases at the ATCs. In Aid to Localities, the Budget proposed by the Governor provides for an overall funding increase of $10.2 million, including: $8.5 million for residential treatment programs to improve worker recruitment and retention, address increases in employee health insurance and general liability insurance costs, and maintain treatment opportunities for the working poor (allocation criteria will be developed over the next year); an additional $4.2 million to expand the MATS program, which has been running since 1999 to institute case management for high cost Medicaid patients; and $1 million in new monies to further strengthen the State’s Compulsive Gambling Education and Treatment Program. $4.5 million in Aid to Localities savings is recommended, to be achieved through administrative and other operational efficiencies targeted at poorly performing local providers and less critical services, and it is proposed that OASAS reduce its existing contract funding for the NYC Department of Education by $3.1 million. Article VII legislation has also been introduced by the Governor that would transfer statutory authority for the Compulsive Gambling Program from the Office of Mental Health to OASAS and permit OASAS to regulate and license gambling treatment programs, and to credential gambling counselors.
Management indicated that both houses of the Legislature were meeting in joint Budget conference committees and that almost $5.2 million in Aid to Localities funding was being recommended to be added to OASAS’ final budget for 2005-06, including: full restoration of the NYC Department of Education contract funding cut; a $1.0 million restoration of the Governor’s proposed $4.5 million in local program savings; $300,000 for methamphetamine prevention, intervention and treatment programs; and $775,000 for grants to various local programs. OASAS staff also indicated that the Governor has introduced legislation to settle Native American tribal land claims and provide for additional casinos. Included in that legislation is a provision authorizing up to $10 million in funding (beginning in the 2006-07 fiscal year) for compulsive gambling prevention and treatment services.
PEF questioned the net decrease of 2 FTE’s in the Executive Direction program. Management replied that the net decrease was the result of the following: expiration of a federal grant and the resulting loss of 4 FTE federal funds staff positions associated with it; the shifting of 3 FTE General Fund staff positions to federal funds to achieve required General Fund savings; and 2 FTE federal funds new staff positions to replace discontinued consulting services contracts; resulting in approximately $240,000 in savings.
Staffing Update — New positions, Examination Plans and Title Consolidation Plans
New Positions: Management felt DOB has been supportive in backfilling vacated positions. There has been some minor discussion with them about adding positions. ATC’s and administrative item refills are fairly constant. There was no discrete body of work identified for the SG-25 level of the Addiction Program Specialist title series. Only a few positions exist in that salary grade and they will be reclassified as they become vacant. There is no intention to make any additional appointments at the SG-25 level. PEF suggested a side-bar discussion.
Examination Plans: The OASAS Program Manager battery exam was announced about one month ago. The APS 4 (SG-27) list, issued in June 2004 has been used for a number of appointments. Management is looking to move up the APS 2 (SG-23) examination to a date in 2005. PEF asked if ATC staff will be able to take the test for the APS 2 title. Management replied that almost no appointments to that title were made off the B list, and that ATC staff must qualify open competitively on a new exam. The RR3 exam was last given in 1993; a new holding of an exam for that title as discussed at an April meeting with Civil Service. An exam for the title of Supervisor of ATC Clinical Services (Assistant Director) will also be on the list of exams proposed to be held next year.
Title Consolidation: Management stated there was a significant amount of title consolidation shortly after OASAS’ merger, including the Addiction Program Specialist series SG-18 through SG-27, and the Addiction Planning Analyst title series. There are still a few titles where the unique minimum qualifications justify leaving them as is rather than consolidating them into existing titles. OASAS’ only Community Mental Health Nurse position exists in good numbers at other agencies.
Agency Reorganization: Two Cornell consultants conducted interviews with over fifty agency managers and staff. Another seventy-five people provided input via very extensive telephone interviews. A significant amount of research was carried out in regard to the reorganization of the agency. One point made clear by the research was that OASAS’ strength lies with its staff. Staff were found to be very committed to the agency and its mission. The first draft of the reorganization chart was shared with agency staff and is available for viewing on the OASAS Intranet. Comments may be communicated as outlined in the accompanying transmittal memo. To the extent possible, agency staff will be matched to their areas of interest. PEF expressed their appreciation to Management for good communication on this issue. PEF asked if the reorganization will be extended to the ATC’s. Management replied that if so, it would have a much different flavor. PEF suggested they may have ideas on how to do things more efficiently, such as making bulk purchases of supplies and equipment.
BATC Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy
Management is awaiting a response from PEF following their review of the revised policy, which they forwarded to the union for review some time ago. The initial thrust of the union’s concern was the type of testing to be used, i.e. saliva versus urine testing. PEF expressed concerns about situations such as if an ATC employee consumed one alcohol drink with lunch and then returned to duty; what might the consequences be for them? PEF Counsel’s Office believed that the policy changes must become the subject of mandatory negotiations, as it impacts on the terms and conditions of employment. PEF is ready to negotiate with GOER on the matter. PEF asked what constitutes impairment as they were not given any parameters in that regard. Debbie Egel, Tom Torino and Vinnie Chesimard will work on the policy more before offering it for further review and comment. PEP stated that their biggest issue was the expansion of the policy to include alcohol testing. Management replied that there is already a NYS policy barring impairment by alcohol while on duty.
BATC Tobacco-Free Policy
PEF said their concerns about a tobacco-free policy are similar to those associated with the drug and alcohol testing policy, i.e. what happens if employees violate one of the policies? Both parties agreed to use the Manhattan ATC tobacco-free policy as a template for development of an agency-wide policy. PEF is concerned about the issue of staff being told that they cannot carry tobacco product or paraphernalia while on duty. PEF requested support from Management regarding supplying nicotine patches or gum to staff who wish to attempt to discontinue the use of tobacco products. Management discussed having DOH bring stop-smoking resources to the ATC staff PEF will put together a list of those resources, if staff interest is sufficient. It was suggested that the PEF H&S unit be approached for grant funds, and the American Cancer Society be invited to participate. PEF suggested acupuncture as a method of treatment for staff
Training for Administration Payroll Staff— Effective Conflict Resolution Training
Management made a commitment to this training and will make every effort to continue offering it for any employees not yet trained. Kay Champagne, of the Bureau of Human Resources Management, has been given this assignment. GOER has a course on managing conflict that has been offered for a number of years. Management prefers to use our employees who have been trained as instructors rather than sending staff out to GOER training locations. PEF asked if the funds they had provided to develop the training for Administration employees would cover all OASAS Administration employees. Management replied that the training was originally targeted for supervisors, but now will be made available to all administrative employees. PEF offered that a joint application for a workforce initiative grant could be used as a vehicle to help with collaboration on other joint projects going forward.
Health and Safety Issues - Flu Vaccines, Vehicle Safety, New Employee Health Concerns, Immunization Needs
Flu Vaccines: PEF reported the problems their members experienced in obtaining flu vaccines. Management said they had moved some of their limited vaccine supplies from Rochester to the DickVan Dyke ATC. Some other ATC’s received the vaccines late, well past the optimum time to administer it to patients. Available vaccine was distributed by OMH; Management said their first goal is to make sure there is enough flu vaccine for all patients.
New Employee Health Concerns: PEF asked if they could carry out a volunteer survey regarding the issue of providing new employee physicals. Management expressed concern about HIPPA issues and wanted to research other agency’s practices before discussion at the next meeting.
Immunization Needs: Host OMH psychiatric centers will be making Hepatitis vaccines available to OASAS staff
Vehicle Safety: PEF stated that Management misunderstood PEF’s concern about vehicle safety during inclement weather, stating that Management viewed it as a statewide issue rather than an upstate local concern. PEP acknowledged, however, that Management only wished to assure that all locations were treated equally. The cost of having snow tires installed on the OASAS vehicles was minimal and there were no problems reported by travelers. PEF expressed concern about having local issues moved into the statewide labor/management arena.
Building Renovations and Changes
Building Renovations: Management reported that OASAS renewed a ten-year lease with the landlord at the 1450 Western Avenue location in Albany. Renovations at the site are moving forward and the first phase work on the 5th floor is scheduled to be completed by mid-August. The contractors discovered an asbestos problem while working on the ~ floor. The work of removing the floor tile and adhesive containing asbestos was subsequently carried out in compliance with all State and Federal laws. Information about the asbestos removal was provided on the OASAS Intranet and was posted throughout the building. All asbestos testing results were well within established Department of Labor (DOL) standards. There was one incident on the 5th floor involving the use of a solvent to remove floor tile adhesive. The solvent leaked down through the floor and the ceiling below and onto some employee desks. Some personal possessions were damaged and removed. Employees will be fully reimbursed for losses of personal property. Absolutely no health hazard to employees has been found. Additional steps will be taken to prevent a similar situation from recurring. The building management hired a contractor who did extensive air quality testing in response to employees’ health complaints on the 1st floor. DOL was brought in to test the air quality and it was found to be well within the established standards. The HVAC system is being upgraded in the building.
Building management has employed security guards at the 1450 Western Avenue location for a short period until an electronic security system is installed. All OASAS staff are now required to wear ID’s while at the workplace. All OASAS employees will have access to their work areas during weekdays. Phones will be installed so that visitors can contact employees upon arrival at the building. Photo ID cards were obtained for almost all employees, although a small number declined the photo ID’s and were issued alternative ID cards. The electronic system does not register employee attendance, it only serves to unlock doors to OASAS workspace. PEP said that the ATC’s have real problems with security. Management replied that all but two ATC’s have installed security cameras that are monitored 24/7. Management said their intent is to have such security system installed at all ATC locations.
Building Changes: Management briefed the group regarding the lease for the 8th and 9th floors at the 501 7th Avenue location in Manhattan. That location now has significantly fewer staff than when it was first occupied by OASAS. OGS asked OASAS to modify space on the 9Th floor to provide workspace for 20-3 0 staff from the Division of Parole, many of whom are field employees. That space will be completely separate from the OASAS operations there. The arrangement will allow OASAS to achieve significant savings initially and not pay for space it doesn’t need. Thirteen OASAS staff will be affected by the change to the office space. Space planning for the project has been approved by OGS and work should be completed some time in May. PEP was concerned about having parolees enter the building, citing and the possible presence of firearms. Management said all such concerns have been addressed.
PEF congratulated Stephen Riehman on his retirement and thanked him for his services.
Next meeting date: August 24, 2005 beginning at 9:00 am at PEF Headquarters.
Deborah Egel, Co-Chair
Vernetta Chesimard, Co-Chair
Thomas Torino, Chair