Letter: The Mental Health Block Grant and Enhanced FMAP Rates

Testimony & Public Comments

June 29, 2021

Dear Commissioner Sullivan:

As children’s advocates, behavioral health providers, and parents and caregivers in New York, we appreciate this opportunity to provide feedback on how the state might utilize federal funding through the Mental Health Block Grant (MHBG) administered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMSHA), as well as enhanced funding through the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP).

Children in New York have faced a year of loss, fear, isolation, disrupted learning, and financial distress. The harms of this pandemic to children’s emotional and mental wellbeing are widespread and undeniable. Fewer children are able to access care, even as more children are experiencing mental health crises at younger ages. The result has been a surge of children on waitlists or entering Emergency Rooms and hospitals in severe psychiatric distress.

Given the influx of federal funding and considering the urgent and pressing behavioral health needs of our state’s children, we believe New York has a moral imperative to make substantial and long-lasting investments in behavioral supports for children and families. Children have historically been last and least when it comes to mental health and SUD funding, and our state is now facing a shrinking behavioral health system for children.

We believe 50% of funding from the MHBG and future federal funding dedicated to mental health and SUD services should be directed towards services for children and families. These funds should cover not only children who are SED-eligible, but also children and families at-risk of developing SED. Only by investing in supports for the youngest New Yorkers can our state break the cycle of behavioral health crisis that turns struggling children into adults without recourse for care or adequate support.

Click on the link below to review our recommendations for how federal funding should be prioritized.

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