Fulton County readies for ‘Raise the Age’ law

JOHNSTOWN — The state’s new Raise the Age Law was on the agenda of Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ committee sessions this week, including preliminary approval of a DSS plan and non-secure sites to take youth.

So far, officials said no 16-year-old youth arrested in Fulton County have fallen into the Raise the Age category since the state law went into effect Oct. 1.

County Probation Director Cynthia Licciardi and District Attorney Chad Brown said Monday that should there be youth impacted, they could immediately be housed in facilities in Albany or Onondaga County.

The state is promising 100 percent reimbursement of new law costs through the state and federal governments.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on April 10, 2017 signed legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York state from 16 to 18 years old. Young people aged 16 and 17 will no longer be permitted to be housed in adult facilities or jails.

The Raise the Age legislation requires all but the most serious 16-year-old criminal offenders to be diverted to county Family Court, and handled consistent with juvenile delinquent statutes. On Oct. 1, 2019, 17-year-old offenders will likewise be diverted. Those 16- or 17-year-olds impacted and charged with a non-violent felony or a misdemeanor will be considered an “adolescent offender” and be completely protected from the adult incarceration population.

Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead on Monday requested before the Public Safety Committee a proposed board resolution urging the state to fully fund new county costs incurred related to Raise the Age. He said the New York State Association of Counties is also addressing the issue.

“Many of the counties and NYSAC are encouraging the different counties to do a resolution,” he said.

Fulton County’s proposed resolution would also request fiscal waivers guaranteed for counties during the early years of the law’s transition.

In other action this week related to Raise the Age:

∫ County Department of Social Services Commissioner Anne Solar on Tuesday received preliminary approval from the Human Services Committee to enter into contracts with two downstate facilities for foster care and placement. Contracts are with MercyFirst in Syosset on Long Island, and Graham School Residential Treatment Facility in Hastings-on-Hudson, just outside New York City.

The daily rates are $1,104 for MercyFirst and $1,111 for the Graham facility.

“They have the Raise the Age beds,” Solar said. “These costs, the state has told us, will be 100 percent reimbursed.”

She said certain Raise the Age Law youth can only be placed in approved “RTA facilities.” She said her department is in the process of completing a contract for RTA beds at another, third facility previously approved by the Board of Supervisors, but DSS is “seeking additional options.”

∫ Solar said she also submitted her DSS Raise the Age Plan to the state for review. A followup call from the state Office of Children and Family Services requested DSS make some “technical change,” she said.

She said her department’s total 2019-20 RTA request is $230,113 – “none of which they questioned.”

“It’s an ongoing, developing story,” Stead said of the new law.

Solar said monetary requests include costs for members of an RTA team, a caseworker, case aide and therapist, as well as costs of RTA overtime, mileage, supervision, counsel activities, non-secure detention costs, and administrative functions such as entering data.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

By Patricia Older

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