In a Time of Crisis, We need to Provide Services to New Yorkers who Need it Most

New Yorkers have been suffering from the physical, economic and mental health effects of this pandemic for over a year. Mental health issues have affected many New Yorkers, especially youths who have seen a massive increase in suicides over that time. Mental health professionals have highlighted the need to remain vigilant as the stress from the pandemic, job loss, school closures and other economic fallout continues to weigh heavily on the minds of New Yorkers.

Years of budget cuts and capacity reductions have left many New Yorkers with mental health issues facing increasingly limited treatment options. Since 2014, the Office of Mental Health has cut 22% of inpatient adult beds and 32% of children and youth beds. They would continue these cuts by cutting an additional 200 inpatient beds and 100 community-based beds, as proposed in this year’s budget. The failure to ensure adequate state support for mental health services has led many New Yorkers to go without it. The pandemic has only exacerbated these disturbing trends.

New York needs to find a better path forward to meet this challenge. Instead of cutting more beds and services for the mentally ill or reducing state-supported residential services for the developmentally disabled, New York needs to ask its wealthiest citizens to do just a little more. We asked our nurses, truckers, transit workers, grocery workers and other “essential” employees to stand in harm's way to deliver needed goods and services. Now we need the wealthiest among us, our billionaires, and multi-millionaires to contribute their fair share through new tax brackets to shepherd us through this phase of the crisis. With these resources, the state can provide all our mentally ill and those with developmental disabilities with appropriate treatment and care, while relieving local governments from some of the costs associated with ensuring access to treatment.

Mario Cilento, President