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Cuomo accepts recommendations of 'Reimagine New York' Commission

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Thu, Apr 1st 2021 09:50 pm

Reimagine New York Commission submits final report outlining innovative reforms to expand access to internet connectivity, telehealth & work

Also announces launch of affordable broadband options portal, telehealth provider training portal & ‘Reimagine New York’ mental health outreach campaign

Gov. Andrew Cuomo accepted the final recommendations of the “Reimagine New York” Commission across its three focus areas: connectivity, telehealth and work.

The report, "Action Plan for a Reimagined New York," highlights key initiatives that are already underway through innovative public-private partnerships as well as major legislation that Cuomo included in his 2021 executive budget, including the first-in-the-nation guarantee of affordable internet for low-income families and legislation to expand and improve access to telehealth. The commission's report is available here.

"As we continue to reopen New York state and reimagine New York in our new normal, we are taking advantage of this moment to implement what we've learned and build our state back better than ever before," Cuomo said. "The recommendations set forth by the blue-ribbon ‘Reimagine New York’ Commission vastly improves our current situation and better prepares us for the future with outside-the-box thinking and creative solutions that will enrich New Yorkers for years to come."

Commission Chair, Co-Founder of Schmidt Futures and Former CEO of Google Eric Schmidt said, "This commission was tasked with leveraging technology to build back a better and more equitable New York, and I'm confident the recommendations in our action plan – especially those that are already being implemented – meet that test. Our most important recommendation is this: for New York to lead the nation in both prosperity and equity, universal connectivity is a prerequisite. Affordable broadband is essential to advance education, secure the economic success of residents and businesses, provide health care, and enable all New Yorkers to thrive. This work is just the start of reimagining New York. Those who take up the mantle to see these initiatives through – from government to private organizations to residents – will be critical to realizing a state that is more prosperous than ever before."

The “Reimagine New York” Commission's final report recommends initiatives already underway to build back a better and more resilient New York. In partnership with the state, philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and businesses have launched a “Pathways Pledge” to promote equitable hiring with 17 of New York's largest employers, developed a telehealth facilitator pilot to improve access to telehealth among vulnerable populations, and supported the creation of the Entrepreneurship Navigator to mentor budding entrepreneurs, among other actions to help New Yorkers.

Just last week, the governor announced the launch of ConnectED NY, a program supported by Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation, to address the growing inequities among students facing a lack of internet access in low-income communities. It will help connect approximately 50,000 K-12 students across the state.

Cuomo’s team said, “The report also underscores the need for the New York State Legislature to pass critical legislation included in Gov. Cuomo's 2021 executive budget, including the first-in-the-nation guarantee of affordable internet for low-income families, reforms to expand and improve access to telehealth and scholarships to low-income workers for workforce training programs.”

•The report finds equal access to high-quality, affordable internet connectivity is a prerequisite to building back a better and more equitable New York. In January, as part of his 2021 connectivity agenda, Cuomo proposed first-in-the-nation legislation requiring internet service providers to offer an affordable $15 per month high speed internet plan to low-income households. Currently, a basic high-speed internet plan costs, on average, more than $50 a month. The state will also require providers to advertise this option to ensure programs reach underserved populations across New York.

•At the recommendation of the “Reimagine New York” Commission, the governor has also proposed comprehensive telehealth reform legislation in his executive budget to help New Yorkers take advantage of telehealth and modernize outdated regulatory restrictions. New York will work to expand telehealth access through legislative and administrative tools.

•Cuomo's executive budget also includes new workforce training scholarships to move into well-paid jobs at a time when COVID-19 has displaced many workers and sectors. Like the Excelsior Scholarship that launched in 2017, this program will make high-quality credential programs free for low-income New Yorkers, empowering them to earn credentials that will lead to jobs in high-demand industries. This program will be complemented by a proposed $50 million in new workforce programs and the expansion of SUNY's free online learning programs to residents across the state.

Additionally, Cuomo announced the launch of three new initiatives informed by commission recommendations:

•Affordable Broadband Portal: Cuomo launched the Affordable Broadband Portal to help New Yorkers find available, affordable broadband programs in their area, which have historically been difficult to find and enroll in. This website also includes critical information about the FCC's emergency broadband benefit program ($50/month subsidy for broadband service, plus a one-time discount of up to $100 on computers and tablets) and consumer surveys so New Yorkers can take advantage of the programs that serve low-income residents and share their experience. This is one part of the state's effort to make affordable broadband more widely accessible.

Senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners and co-chair of the “Reimagine New York” Commission's connectivity working group Richard Parsons said, "Broadband affordability is critical to achieving the ‘Reimagine’ commission's objective of universal connectivity. The Affordable Broadband Portal will help New Yorkers find local, affordable internet options, and consumer surveys will empower New Yorkers to report their own experiences with broadband availability, pricing and speeds. These tools are an important step toward a world where connectivity is not only universally accessible but also universally affordable."

•New York State Telehealth Training Portal: Cuomo announced the launch of a telehealth training program with the aim of developing, improving and maintaining the telehealth competencies of medical and behavioral health providers across the state. The new portal is a collaboration among Stony Brook Medicine, the “Reimagine New York” Commission, Northeast Telehealth Resource Center and the New York State Department of Health, and serves as an open-access, interdisciplinary gateway to deliver telehealth education to the health care workforce across New York.

Led by the Northeast Telehealth Resource Center under the guidance of a telehealth education advisory group and regional subject matter experts, this portal will provide training modules that address the full scope of telehealth program implementation, management and practice, with topics ranging from telehealth technology to provider etiquette best practices. Healthcare providers can start taking the initial courses here now; additional modules and tools will continue to roll out in the future.

President of SUNY Stony Brook and member of the “Reimagine New York” Commission's Telehealth Working Group Maurie McInnis said, "The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how essential telehealth is to delivering effective, accessible health care for all New Yorkers. We must invest in infrastructure to train and equip medical and behavioral health providers with the resources they need to confidently use this important tool in care delivery. As the commission found through conversations with providers across the state, we can only unlock the full benefits of telehealth if we support those entrusted with delivering it – and the open-access Telehealth Training Portal is a vital component of that support."

•“Reimagine New York” Mental Health Outreach Campaign: Informed by the commission, Cuomo also announced New York's Office of Mental Health will partner with private organizations across the state to launch the Reimagine Mental Health Outreach Campaign to increase awareness of virtual mental health support resources. Ten partners have committed to the campaign to increase its reach to over 100,000 New Yorkers.

This campaign is particularly focused on supporting communities that disproportionately face unmet mental health needs, including low-income, older, rural, and immigrant communities and communities of color.

President of Cornell University and co-chair of the “Reimagine New York” Commission's Telehealth Working Group Martha Pollack said, "The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the mental health and wellbeing of New Yorkers, particularly in traditionally underserved and vulnerable communities. We can build upon the outreach by organizations that are already doing profound work in our communities to make all residents aware of available virtual support resources. This initiative is an important outcome of the ‘Reimagine’ Commission's efforts to improve health care access, and Cornell is proud to join the Office of Mental Health as a campaign partner."

Further details on the commission's work and its findings are available here.

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