Yesterday, MHANYS held our annual ‘Mental Health Matters’ Legislative Day. We had over two hundred people in attendance including MHA members from every corner of the State (shout out to Essex County MHA that brought over a dozen members), our colleagues at the National Eating Disorder Association, Veterans from Long Island and High School Students from Cairo-Durham in the Mid-Hudson Region. This year’s list of speakers included Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan, Senate Mental Hygiene Chair, Robert Ortt, Assembly Mental Hygiene Chair, Aileen Gunther, Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force Chair, Marcos Crespo, Assemblyman John McDonald, Senate Banking Chair, Jesse Hamilton, Senate IDC Whip, David Carlucci and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.
All of these speakers are champions of those of us in the mental health community. There was a palpable sense from virtually every speaker about the importance of funding for the mental health workforce which is the Number One priority for MHANYS this year. We are urging support for fifty million dollars in this year’s budget for the mental health workforce.
In several meetings that took place after the event, we were told from virtually every staff person that they have heard from the mental health community about the importance of this ask. The frustration of the consistent ten year lack of a workforce COLA combined with the impact of the minimum wage and the complexity and demands of the work have created a ‘perfect storm’ that is reflected by the desperate need that continues to grow every day. This is reflected in the frustration of peers and families desperate for services and providers dealing with running mission driven, safety net organizations with bare bones budgets. THIS IS NOT RHETORIC, THIS IS REALITY.
What we do have going for us is a strong and vocal constituency and caring legislators and executive staff. Now we have to continue to move that caring and compassion into action through the addition in the budget of funding for the community mental health workforce.
We have many other issues of great importance that were discussed and highlighted in our Issues Brief which is attached.