The New York State budget adds more than $400 million to booster health services

ALBANY The new state budget increased funding for mental health services by more than $400 million to better serve children in schools, veterans and the mentally ill charged with crimes, as well as to address shortages of care workers amid a growing state and national mental health crisis.

The budget provides funding to state agencies for mental health clinics in schools, more psychiatric beds for inpatients in state facilities, and for the ongoing mental health needs of veterans, first responders and law enforcement officers. security and fixes.

TThe state Office of Mental Health will receive an additional $118 million, bringing its budget to $4.9 billion. That compares with $3.3 billion in 2022, when the state began a multiyear plan to strengthen mental health services, according to the state Budget Division. said he could not provide an overall figure for the total spending by all state agencies on mental health services.

The state’s priority to fund mental health services comes as more than 1 in 5 New Yorkers have symptoms of mental illness and 1 in 10 adults and children face challenges severe enough to affect work life , family and school, according to the state Department of Health. Left untreated, outcomes include school failure, teenage pregnancies, unemployment, divorce, suicide and violence.

Nationally, the U.S. Surgeon General determined that the country is in a youth mental health crisis, including increases in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, all exacerbated by closely related drug addiction, such as oxycontin and fentanyl.

It’s a crisis, said Ramesh Raghavan, a professor at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and co-author of Investing in Children’s Mental Health. The area of ​​need is particularly acute in young people.

The crisis has prompted more funding from states, including California, and the federal government. New York’s effort ramped up starting with Hochul’s 2023 State of the State direction. It called for a multi-year investment of $1 billion after years of underinvestment, even before the pandemic.

“Given that we seem to have such underinvestment in this country, any increase is very, very positive,” Raghaven told Newsday.

However, Raghaven and mental health leaders who provide care in the state also said a better balance is needed in how funding is spent. For example, the state has focused on increasing the number of psychiatric beds in hospitals and psychiatric centers, when community care works best for most patients.

A psychiatric bed is a place of care, not a type of care, he said. And we should invest in more types of care. He said the state could better balance preventative measures, such as earlier intervention with youth.

Half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14, and three-quarters begin by age 24, according to the state Department of Health citing national figures.

Mental health spending from the Office of Mental Health, which provides services and administers most mental health spending, as well as under the Departments of Justice, Education, Health, and Veterans Affairs. in the budget adopted on Saturday include:

  • $33 million to expand mental health services for people with mental illness who are arrested. That includes $10 million to expand mental health courts, which specialize in handling such cases. There are now 41 mental health courts in cities, counties and counties across the state, including Nassau and Suffolk counties. Hochul said at a news conference in Manhattan on Wednesday that the goal is to have the special courts in all 62 counties.
  • $20 million for school mental health clinics statewide and $19 million for additional services for school-age youth. Another $9.6 million will be used to continue serving youth in their community when possible. There are now more than 1,100 school-based mental health clinic satellites operating or planned in the states’ 4,771 public schools.
  • $55 million to add 200 more psychiatric beds to state facilities, including 15 youth beds.
  • A doubling of funding to $2 million for suicide prevention by first responders, veterans, law enforcement and corrections officers.
  • $1.25 million to hire more staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs to process more claims,including those resulting from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

By improving mental health supports, we’re not only helping people find stability and peace, we’re making our community safer, Hochul said.

The budget also provides $244 million in funding to address workforce shortages that have reduced the capacity of state-funded nonprofit service providers and delayed patient contact with psychologists and psychiatrists sometimes for months. The budget includes funding for a 2.84% cost of living adjustment for most mental health workers. The nonprofit agencies had asked for a 3.2 percent increase.

The budget also includes $4 million to forgive student loans for licensed mental health clinicians who serve children and families and who qualify for the program.

Most frontline workers in the states earn between $25,000 and $35,000 a year, with pay slightly higher on Long Island and New York City, said Glenn Liebman, executive director of the state’s Mental Health Association. of New York, whose members provide services under state contracts. That wage has been mostly stagnant without a cost-of-living increase for more than 15 years, Liebman told Newsday. That has led to staff shortages, including at the nonprofit oneAlbany, which he said has 1,500 employees and 200 vacancies.

Sometimes they work with challenging people, and their appreciation is a salary you can get at McDonalds, Liebman said.

It’s hard to stay employed without moving up the ranks or working three or four jobs, said Jihoon Kim, CEO of the mental health organization InUnity Alliance and a former Hochul employee. But it’s really just the beginning, but I’m realistic.

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