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Money to fight mental health crisis coming: Will it help?

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

Provisions in New York state’s 2024 budget will have resounding impacts across the state.

Along with $60 million to improve youth mental health services, the budget includes $1 billion to grow the state’s capacity for inpatient psychiatric treatment. Additionally, the funding will expand outpatient services and boost insurance coverage.

Not every proposed provision made it to the final budget.

Olivia Knox, New York State chapter policy coordinator for the National Association of Social Workers, said one dropped provision was payment parity for telehealth services.

“As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits almost now exceed in-person visits,” Knox pointed out. “That option would have ensured the health of both the client and the provider while still engaging in the life-changing work.”

During the first few months of the pandemic, telehealth visits increased 154%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Knox added another dropped provision was a private right of action for people to be able to sue insurance companies for parity law violations.

The budget also addresses low wages mental health workers have been facing, through a 4% cost-of-living adjustment, almost half of the proposed 8.5%. Knox argued other issues need to be addressed in future budgets.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

“Continued discussions around maternal mental health and our youth mental health are really crucial to addressing the most vulnerable populations in our state,” Knox contended. “We would love to see social workers in school districts addressing the mental-health needs of school-aged children.”

She noted there will be a continued battle to ensure social workers get pay increases to retain them in the field. A National Association of Social Workers New York Chapter report shows 34% of social workers surveyed are at the same salary when they started their job, which on average was one to five years ago.