New York State Senator James Skoufis has long been a supporter of increased funding for programs that help individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health issues.
In negotiations for this year’s state budget, Skoufis led a successful fight to reject proposed cuts to disability and mental health programs, and was also able to increase the Cost of Living Adjustment for employees in these programs. There had not been an increase since 2017.
He talked about this successful push to reject these cuts via email.
“”I’ve long been a champion for people with developmental disabilities and always fought back against the Governor’s proposed cuts since my time in the Assembly,” said Senator Skoufis. “This year, my colleagues and I fought to successfully increase the Cost of Living Adjustment, which is something that hasn’t happened in far too long and will provide relief for families.”
It was not an easy battle for the state senator, as Governor Andrew Cuomo has had a history of proposing to cut funds to disability and mental health agencies.
“I knew going into this year’s budget negotiations that we had to fight like hell to prevent the Governor’s proposed cuts, and that’s exactly what we did,” he said.
There were concerns leading up to this decision that the cuts would lead to a return to institutions such as the controversial Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, which became the subject of an award-winning investigation from TV personality Geraldo Rivera.
The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities was to face nearly half a billion dollars in cuts. Last October, $238 million was added to annualized cuts in residential facilities. That was one of a pattern of cuts Governor Cuomo has instituted since he took office over a decade ago.
Two facilities that were vulnerable to these and even more cuts were the Goshen Secure Center and Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center. Skoufis’s push to fight against these cuts helped save these mental health facilities.
Additionally, it was recently revealed that Cuomo also had a mandate for group homes for individuals with intellectually and developmentally disabilities to accept COVID patients. Unlike the equally controversial nursing home mandate, it has not been reversed as of yet.
All this controversy comes at a time when mental health and disability services have been sought after as state residents cope with social isolation and other turmoil that has been experienced during the pandemic.
“This last year has absolutely highlighted the importance of mental and physical health, as well as the need for the state to invest in mental health programming,” said Senator Skoufis. “I’ll continue fighting for New Yorkers to have better access to these services.”