The New York State legislative session last month and negotiations resulted in important investments in areas we have been focused on that affect local children and youth. Although there were some missed opportunities to make concrete progress in cutting state child poverty rates, WCA will continue to lay the groundwork for progress and build on recent county and state investments in mental health that will help children who are struggling due to the pandemic.
State legislators ended their 2022 legislative session on June 4th bringing forth historic investments in emergent and reoccurring issues that are impacting some of the most vulnerable children throughout Westchester County and New York State. We laid out our 9-point agenda for the 2023 New York State Budget early this year and then narrowed our focus to 3 areas that fell under the umbrella of cutting child poverty and its impact on vulnerable children. These three issues that contribute to child poverty included home visiting, the Empire State Child Tax Credit (ESCC), and child care subsidies. Legislators have made some progress in acting upon their commitment to reducing child poverty rates in half by 2030 by making appointments to the Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council from the Senate and the Assembly but not the Office of the Governor. Unfortunately, little to no investments were made in our 3 areas of focus. Full details are presented in a chart at the end of this article.
Progress in Child Mental Health
Now that state budget negotiations have ended, we will build on emerging investments in mental health to strengthen partnerships and create policy goals and programs that will help children and youth struggling with coping with stressors made worse by the pandemic. Research confirms an alarming increase in sustained demand for mental health services that are accessible and affordable for children, youth, and their families. With efforts to address these demands, the 2023 New York State Budget will:
- Invest an additional $7.5 million in Residential Treatment Facilities (RTFs) for children.
- Expand the Child Health Plus benefit package to include certain services covered by Medicaid, including behavioral health services.
- Utilize the Healthy Steps initiative to continue to incorporate behavioral health services into pediatric primary care visits, bolstering mental health services for children and families.
WCA is fully committed to ensuring that youth receive fundamental support that will lead them along a path of success with specific investments in mental health related services. Even though the mental health crisis facing our children is well acknowledged, a pathway for improvement is not clear. As an advocate for mental health before and after the pandemic, WCA continues to advocate for better data to further educate the community on ways to help children with their mental wellness. Experts agree that there is a need for a collaborative model that does not duplicate efforts and squander scarce resources urgently needed by children. To this end, we are building on connections strengthened during our recent Child Mental Health Roundtable to develop a best practice model that best suits the needs of children in Westchester. In efforts to unite these resources, WCA will use funding from the 2022 Westchester County Budget in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to bring their “End the Silence” training to staff in out-of- school settings such as summer camps and afterschool programs. We will also work over the summer to strategize the best approach to make lasting progress through policy changes in child mental health.
You can help
Stay tuned for updates in August on our plan of action and how you can get involved. We are always looking for eAdvocates and supporters who are able to lend their voice and sometimes their presence to our advocacy efforts. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Reference: Schuyler Center for Analysis and Policy 2022 NYS End of Session Policy Priorities: Outcomes
WCA supports the 2022 agendas of many coalitions and partners, including CHAMPS NY, Child Care Council of Westchester, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Fostering Youth Success Alliance, New York State Child Welfare Coalition, NY State Network for Youth Success, Prevent Child Abuse New York, Raise the Age NY Campaign, Schuyler Center for Analysis & Advocacy, Nonprofit Westchester and Westchester Women’s Agenda which include many of the priorities outlined above.
See other articles in WCA eBulletin #25 for July 2022:
Subscribe to see how you can help Westchester’s kids!