January 28, 2020
New York child welfare advocates today launched a new statewide effort to highlight the need for investments in youth behavioral health services, an issue which they say takes on new significance amid the state’s Medicaid budget shortfall. Arguing that children’s behavioral health faces a “crisis” in New York, advocates with the Citizens’ Committee for Children NY, Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, JCCA and other groups urged state lawmakers to prioritize funding for youth mental health services as they work through the new executive budget. Members of the new “Campaign for Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids” coalition demanded that New York not only stop all cuts to children’s behavioral health care but ensure that children in need to such treatment are not affected by looming Medicaid cuts. They further called on the Cuomo administration to “fulfill its commitment to increasing access to behavioral health services for all children and adolescents.” CCC executive director Jennifer March told reporters that the campaign seeks to ensure that “every child in New York state can access quality, affordable behavioral health care services that they’re legally entitled to.” “This is not only a moral issue, but it’s a legal one under state and federal parity laws,” she said at an afternoon news conference. “In an immediate first step, this coalition asks the state to put a stop to cuts to children’s behavioral health care. And we must ensure that the state’s Medicaid cost containment efforts …[do] not harm children and families.” Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Sullivan County) added that with a budget the size of New York’s, the state is “obligated to protect these children.” “I know we say there’s a shortfall, but we can’t be sacrificing the health of our children,” she said.