Hillside President & CEO Maria Cristalli delivered testimony in Albany today, at a joint hearing held by the NYS Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees.

The Legislative Budget Hearing, convened to discuss the topic of Mental Hygiene, introduced testimony on the proposed 2023-2024 New York State budget. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Executive Budget has made mental health issues, particularly related to children’s mental health, a focus of state attention in the next fiscal year.

Cristalli’s testimony spoke to the urgency of additional workforce investments in this area. “The children’s mental health system has been neglected and under-funded for decades,” she stated. “We cannot solve the children’s mental health access crisis without addressing the children’s mental health workforce shortage. The Executive Budget includes several initiatives aiming to expand access to community-based services, but this potential is destined to remain unfulfilled unless we fund the workforce necessary to implement these and all other programs.”

Her testimony also emphasized the need for parity in the funding of mental health services, including calling for a state requirement for commercial insurance providers to fully cover Child and Family Treatment & Support Services (CFTSS). Among a number of other important steps, she called for an innovative scholarship program for students pursuing mental health practitioner degrees, citing the financial access barriers that too often keep this professional training out of reach for people of color.

“It is clear that wage and education issues in our sector are also equity issues, not just economic ones,” she wrote. “Scholarships would enable students who might otherwise be unable to attend college at all to pursue degrees in much-needed professions, which is critical to creating a representative diverse workforce, and including Master’s-level education would support more diversity in supervisory roles.”

View her complete written testimony here.

Cristalli appeared at the Joint Hearing representing both Hillside and the NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health, of which she is Board Chair.

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