(Students at MHANYS Mental Health Matters Day urging the Governor and the Legislature to support mental health in schools and in the community)

In the 16 years I’ve been at MHANYS, I have never seen anything like the crowd of people we had Wednesday at our MHANYS Mental Health Matter Legislative Day. We had over five hundred people in attendance including close to three hundred middle school, high school and college students from across New York State.

The timing of the day was important as we had an opportunity to thank the Senate for their support in their one house bill for a COLA, Workforce, CIT, Dwyer Veterans Funding, Medication Access, Housing, Mental Health First Aid and Behavioral Health Parity. We also had the chance to thank the Assembly as well for showing their support in their one house for a COLA, the MHANYS School Based Mental Health Resource Center, Medication Access, Housing, Workforce and Criminal Justice Reform. Between the two houses, many of MHANYS priorites were addressed.

We spoke about a myriad of issues with primary focus on the fight for a human service COLA and full funding of a million dollars for the School Mental Health Training and Resource Center. We thank all of our state leaders who participated including Assembly Mental Hygiene Chair, Aileen Gunther, Senate Mental Hygiene Chair, David Carlucci, Senate Education Chair, Shelly Mayer, OMH Commissioner, Dr. Ann Sullivan and State Education Department Associate Commissioner Renee Rider. We also thank Assemblyman Brian Manktelow for stopping by and showing his support and Assembly Education Chair, Mike Benedetto for meeting with several of our students.

We also featured several experts who spoke to issues of importance to the entire mental health sector. The issues that were covered aside from COLA and the Resource Center included Housing, Eating Disorders, Geriatric Mental Health, Dwyer Peer to Peer Mental Health Program for Veterans, Mental Health First Aid, Criminal Justice Reform, Behavioral Health Parity, Medication Access and the need for more clinicians in schools. All our speakers did a wonderful job but listing these issues (and so many others that we didn’t even have a chance to talk about) shows how we still face so many struggles when it comes to fighting for mental health funding and reform.

Yet a day like Wednesday provides such optimism as we witnessed hundreds of young people eloquently and passionately raising their voices in supporting the importance of mental health services. There is nothing more empowering than seeing hundreds of students rallying and talking so openly about the need for mental health services in schools and in the community. The best way to end the stigma of mental health issues is by talking about them openly.

I was able to attend several of the legislative meetings with these students and I can honestly say that the future of mental health care will be drastically different than what we see now. They will be leading these changes and helping to end the stigma and obstacles that we now face but the need to support the future is today. Prevention is essential. We must all take advantage of these opportunities by strongly supporting mental health needs in schools including identifying the needs for more counselors, social workers and psychologists, highlighting the need for teachers to be trained about mental health and to continue and enhance funding for the School Mental Health Resource and Training Center

We have already received a lot of enthusiastic responses from the fourteen schools that have participated and from several that were unable to attend but look forward to participating next year.

We have attached a few news stories and an interview with Senator Mayer that took place on Wednesday. For more pictures and highlights of the event, go to our twitter page @MHAacrossNYS and our Facebook Page at @MHANYSinc

If you would like to listen to a short interview with Senator Mayer, click here.

Here is just one of the several stories about MHANYS Mental Health MattersDay

www.news10.com/video/advocates-rally-for-mental-health-needs-at-ny-capitol_20190313203035/1846263720