Mental health has been front and center throughout the pandemic.
And with the demand for services increasing, nonprofits that treat people with mental health and addiction issues were hoping to see a funding increase in the state budget.
That didn’t happen.
“It simply is a tremendous injustice. This budget is a tremendous injustice,” said Gary Steck, CEO of Wellmore.
Steck says he was very sad when he saw the budget vote and doesn’t know what to tell his staff.
“How can I look them directly in the face and say you’re going to get a $15 a week raise after no special pay for being there day after day? Remember they were there seeing people with people, face to face during Covid, it didn’t matter -- had to happen or else people would have died,” Steck says.
The demand for mental health and substance use treatment have increased during the pandemic.
“So we have a crisis. And we thought we were close to a solution, but instead of passing a budget that increased funding for all nonprofits, as the appropriations committee had recommended, funding was directed instead to the providers who needed to settle strike actions,” said Heather Gates, president and CEO of Community Health Resources.
Mental health advocates say the staff of those organizations clearly deserved an increase, but not at the expense of other providers.
“It is simply unacceptable to sacrifice treatment for those with mental health and substance use issues when the state has so many resources at its disposal,” Gates said.
Senate President Martin Looney says they are looking to find money to resolve the problem.
“We know that they’ve been underfunded for a long time and we’re trying to find a way to ratchet up that funding because we know there’s years of catch-up involved,” Looney said.
Gian Carl Casa, head of The Alliance, says he’s hoping the legislature will resolve the problem over the next few days.
“It’s our hope that this is an oversight. That this is a mistake rather than a choice and it will be corrected when the legislature comes in this week to finalize implementation language,” Casa said.
Casa says the legislature has plans to allocate $30 million in federal funds for nonprofits over the next three years, but there’s no indication of how that money will be distributed.
Looney says he can’t confirm that’s the case since they are still in discussions over the matter.