Editor's note: Mental Health Musings (MHM) will focus on community resources and stories throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York’s new budget will impact several different aspects of behavioral and mental health care throughout the state, including postponing reinvestments of closed state psychiatric beds into community-based services, funding suicide prevention and funding to provide Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) in jails. 

The budget provides $1 million for Crisis Intervention Teams in the state and another $1 million to create a suicide prevention program for higher risk groups like Latina and Black youth, the LGBTQ+ community and rural areas. 

The COVID-19 pandemic expanded access to tele-mental health services in the state and the budget now helps expand those services to include peer advocates in telehealth. 

But organizers at Campaign for Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids, a coalition of mental and behavioral health providers in New York, said the legislative leaders need to ensure telehealth parity and enable the state’s Child Health Plus program to cover children and family treatment as well. 

“Additionally, we urge the Office of Mental Health and Office of Addiction Services and Supports to prioritize spending federal stimulus funds on behavioral supports for children and families,” said Alice Bufkin, Citizens’ Committee for Children director of policy for child and adolescent health, said in a statement on the Campaign for Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids.

The budget allotted a $32 million fund to support treatment and prevention for opioid use disorder using money from the McKinsey and Company, Inc. settlement.

It includes $5 million for MAT in local jails, $826,000 for outpatient rehabilitation services and $1.2 million for the College Coalition Intervention Program.

The New York Office of Mental Health will close 200 inpatient psychiatric beds across the state, but the budget does preserve 15 in-patient beds at the Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center downstate and $4 million to preserve 100 residential beds at state facilities. 

"The Office of Mental Health reinvests nearly $100 million annually into community-based mental health services for New Yorkers of all ages, using savings from the closure of state psychiatric hospital beds, which have remained vacant for extended periods of time before closure. That level of funding will continue," said Jessica Riley, a NYOMH spokesperson, in a statement. 

Due to the financial challenges faced by New York, which the pandemic exacerbated, the state suspended the reinvestment of these bed reductions for this fiscal year. 

Any savings associated with closures will be honored in future years, Riley said on behalf of OMH in a statement. 

The merger of OMH and New York Office of Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) were not included in the enacted budgets, but the organizations remain committed to integrating services, Riley said in a statement.