Governor Cuomo signs the Mental Health Tax Check Off Bill Into Law

Governor Cuomo and the Legislature listened to the Mental Health Association members, the over 100 agencies that signed on in support and the thousands of individuals who spoke out through phone drives, petitions and letters. Congratulations to all of you for your willingness to openly support the mental health tax check off bill. This landmark legislation is the first of its kind in the country that provides an income tax check off  for mental health public awareness. Now when you fill out your income tax forms or when you e-file, you will see a tax check off for mental health public awareness. That check off will help fund an anti-stigma public awareness campaign.

It is a major step forward in our fight to end the devastating impact of the stigma and discrimination of mental illness. Every one of us is impacted either directly or indirectly by mental illness. Passage of this bill will help us reframe the discussion through greater public awareness. It also opens the door to normalizing mental health education in schools, mental health first aid training statewide and more funding for prevention, suicide prevention and veterans mental health funding.

We want to thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the importance of this movement and signing the bill into law. This bill also never would have happened without the leadership of three legislators who truly believed in this bill. Assembly sponsor Aileen Gunther was such a staunch supporter that she would go into the offices of Senate Majority members and scold them if they did not support this bill. Senate Sponsor David Carlucci was so passionate about this bill that he sponsored press conferences, petitions and call ins across New York State. Senator Robert Ortt, as a rookie Senator, believed so strongly in the bill that he personally lobbied Senate leadership to support the bill. They and their colleagues in both houses deserve a great deal of credit for recognizing that the stigma of mental illness is not a partisan issue.

We are also so appreciative of our colleagues in the community for working with us to spread the words to their members and to send memos of support. Virtually everyone we work with spent time working on this issue and it is greatly appreciated. From Reinvestment to Timothy’s Law, it is incredible what a powerful voice the mental health advocacy community is when we speak in unity. This campaign reflected that voice. Also, we would not have gotten where we ended up without the strategic advice and savviness that our lobbyist Kevin Cleary provided.

Over 100 years ago, Clifford Beers created the Mental Health Association movement. One of the great symbolic manifestations of Beer’s work was the creation in the 1950’s of the Mental Health Association Bell. The bell was built from the discarded shackles and chains from asylums across the country. The inscription on the bell reads, “Cast from shackles which bound them, the bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness” The Mental Health Association affiliates in New York State, the MHANYS Board of Directors, the staff of MHANYS and the thousands of our colleagues across New York State helped to ring that bell today. 

 

Glenn Liebman, CEO
Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.
194 Washington Avenue Suite 415
Albany, NY  12210
gliebman@mhanys.org