Following New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s 2023 State of the State Address, Hillside President & CEO Maria Cristalli praised Gov. Hochul’s commitment to the expansion of mental health services for school-aged children.

The Governor’s complete report, “Achieving the New York Dream,” cited a 2022 audit by the NYS Comptroller that found that 37 percent of New York City public schools had no mental health programs. Gov. Hochul estimated that more than half of Upstate New York schools outside are similarly lacking. To address these and other areas, her plan proposed steps including:

  • Ensuring school-based mental health services are more accessible for youth with commercial insurance (provided by a private insurance company) by requiring reimbursement equivalent to Medicaid.
  • Increasing Medicaid rates for Article 31 school-based satellite clinics.
  • Increasing Medicaid rates for school-based wraparound services.
  • Investing in annual school-based partnership and capacity grants, to provide the start-up funding to get these expanded school-based services off the ground quickly.

“The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the past several years have only compounded the long-term effects of poverty and trauma on young people,” Cristalli said. “These investments in children’s mental health are vital to ensuring that vulnerable youth have access to the resources they need to overcome their challenges and embrace the healthy futures they deserve.

“Hillside wholeheartedly supports the Governor’s recognition of the children’s mental health crisis, and we look forward to collaborating with our State partners in this work in the months to come,” Cristalli added.

Additionally, the NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health offered this statement on the Governor’s address:

“The children, families, and healthcare providers represented by the NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health were glad to hear Governor Hochul recognize the dire mental health crisis New Yorkers have been facing for years, and we appreciate her commitment to investing in a comprehensive system of care in this year’s budget and down the road. We are especially thrilled to see the investments in school-based mental health clinics and the policy changes aimed at improving access to mental health services for children and families with commercial insurance. The Governor’s simultaneous focus on both intensive and preventive services is critical for addressing the full continuum of care. In order to realize the plans to increase comprehensive wraparound services for all children who need them, however, New York must invest in the behavioral health workforce or risk watching the best intentions result in no meaningful change. Providers are already struggling to fill critical positions that would enable them to expand services and reduce wait times for families, and low wages are the primary cause of workers leaving the field. As the minimum wage increases, which we also applaud as an important poverty reduction and equity strategy, it will only become harder to recruit and retain workers in the emotionally demanding roles in the behavioral health field until we start paying them closer to their value to our communities. The NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health looks forward to working with Governor Hochul and her administration on realizing our shared vision for a behavioral health system that provides all New York children and families with the care they need, when they need it.”

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