The $227 billion budget proposal from Gov. Kathy Hochul is being praised by mental health care advocates for its spending plans that would expand the number of beds for people struggling with mental illnesses as well as more housing and $60 million funding for the new 988 helpline.
But state Senate Health Committee Chair Samra Brouk is pushing for more in the final budget deal, which is expected to be in place by March 31.
Brouk in a statement called for more than a 2.5% pay increase for workers in the mental health field in order to improve retention and recruitment.
"The governor’s proposed one billion dollar investment into our state’s mental health system is an opportunity for New York to finally correct decades of divestment that has left our friends and neighbors without the support they deserve," Brouk said. "Now, in a time when countless New Yorkers are seeking mental health treatment, our communities are woefully underprepared to meet the growing need that exists—and we have an obligation to act."
Mental health care organizations have long pointed to the funding needs in order to expand the ranks of workers who provide care to vulnerable people and those struggling with mental health. The COVID pandemic has strained the workforce over the last several years.
"To that end, a 2.5% cost of living adjustment for these workers is insufficient, and if we truly want to make mental health care accessible for our most at-risk residents, we must ensure that these adjustments are indexed to inflation," Brouk said.
A Rochester Democrat, Brouk is also backing the passage of a measure that would create mental health care teams to respond to a person who is in a mental health crisis. The measure is meant to meant to remove police from such situations, and is named in honor of Daniel Prude, who died in 2020 after being restrained by police.
Following an investigation, the officers involved in the incident did not face any charges.
Brouk said funding for 988 and helping people like Prude are intertwined. Passing the measure to create the mental health crisis units would "make 988 as strong as possible," Brouk said.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly state Brouk's position on a cost-of-living increase.