Prior to his State of the Commonwealth address earlier this week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick outlined a comprehensive public safety plan which aside from new gun laws, included a significant increase in funding for the state’s Department of Mental Health.
Next week Governor Deval Patrick will propose a 3.3% increase in funding in the state budget for mental health programs. The $5 million dollar boost to the state’s Department of Mental Health is intended to focus on public safety, following recent mass shootings.
State Senator John Keenan is co-chair of the Joint Committee of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. He was pleased to see the funding increase in relation to preventing gun violence.
The Governor’s investments will include $2 million for Emergency Services Programs supporting Secure Mobile Capacity Technology – which would expand on 24/7 Mobile Crisis units’ ability to intervene to prevent violence or harm to individuals in an emergency behavioral problem.
$1 million would help teachers and faculty at middle and high schools receive training to recognize mental illness in students and to respond accordingly in a mental health emergency.
Senator Keenan mentioned the $500,000 boost in funding for a program to detect mental illness early in a child’s life as critical.
Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, or NAMI – said that her group was particularly interested in a $900,000 dedication towards Crisis Intervention Training. The program trains first responders and law enforcement how to recognize and respond to individuals suffering from mental illness.
The Governor also is advocating for $100,000 to the Center for Early Detection and Response to Risk (CEDAR) program and provide $500,000 for a public education campaign to increase knowledge that treatment is effective and available, while reducing the stigma associated with accessing mental health services.
However, Martinelli said that despite the increase, $5 Million will not be enough make up for the need for mental health services in Massachusetts.
And while looking at the country as a whole, Martinelli said the picture looks more grim.
The Governor will release more details in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal next week. In a statement, addressing his request for mental health funding and stricter gun laws, Governor Patrick said, “All of us must pull in the same direction to bring about real change in this state and across the country.”