Call to restore Nassau mental health cuts
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A Nassau legislator is calling on county lawmakers to restore millions of dollars in funding for mental health programs after Friday's deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead.
Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) on Tuesday wrote to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) and Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) requesting restoration of $3.9 million in funds for 2013 for the Department of Human Services' Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Development Disabilities.
The independent Office of Legislative Budget Review found that contractual services for mental health care were cut by 45.2 percent in the 2013 budget after funding for several programs was eliminated. Lawmakers in the GOP-controlled legislature passed the 2013 budget along a party-line vote last month.
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"It's penny-wise and pound-foolish," Jacobs said at a legislative hearing Monday. "Obviously, anyone who could do what we saw in [Newtown] has to be mentally ill. But there are signs and there are signals. And it's not something we should shirk from."
Gonsalves said Nassau does not have the money to restore the mental health funding unless legislative Democrats approve $165 million in borrowing for property tax refunds. Democrats have refused to approve the borrowing until Republicans guarantee a fairer redistricting process for the county legislature.
"We can't spend money that we don't have," Gonsalves said.
But Jacobs said health insurance costs for active and retired county employees came in lower than expected and that the savings could fund the mental health programs. "To constantly tie human services to this insatiable need to borrow is an insult to the intelligence of the electorate and certainly flies in the face of common sense and dignity," she said.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the cuts "would not have been necessary" had the Democrats approved the borrowing.
With Celeste Hadrick