Testimony

2022-2023 Mental Hygiene Budget Testimony

Testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference regarding the 2022 – 2023 Mental Hygiene Budget submitted by Dennis Poust, executive director, NYS Catholic Conference.

February 14, 2022

Introduction: Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for mental health and addiction-related services has increased exponentially, making the state’s increased investment in the Mental Hygiene budget ever more critical. The number of New Yorkers reporting anxiety, depression, and other struggles has ballooned to top 40%. Tragically, there has been a 51% rise in suicide attempts among young girls. A third of high schoolers report persistent hopelessness or sadness. Deaths due to drug overdose have increased 38%.

Organizations like Catholic Charities serve many of the populations affected by the mental health and addiction crises. These organizations are desperate for investment from the State to meet rising needs exacerbated by the pandemic. Without increases, many New Yorkers will struggle in the absence of care.

Without adequate funding, the organizations that are doing this most critical work will not be able to meet demand. It is our hope that this year’s budget will address these areas of most urgent need:

Behavioral Health Workforce Attraction and Retention: We are so grateful to the Governor for including a 5.4% COLA for behavioral health workers in her budget proposal, and we ask that you advance the measure. The commitment to grow the community healthcare workforce through increased benefits is an important one, and critical to staffing important programs. The services for mental health and addiction need skilled and qualified workers at every level. A COLA is long overdue and an important part of retaining them.

The Governor has proposed an additional $40.7 million to support the minimum wage increases among mental health and addiction staff at not-for-profits. This is another key component of retaining qualified staff. We ask that you retain this funding in the enacted budget so that Catholic Charities and other providers may continue supporting communities in need.

Support for Community Mental Health and Addiction Services: The most impactful service for people suffering from mental illness or addiction happens at the community level. We are grateful to the Governor for proposing $111 million for OMH and OASAS to fund rate increases for community-based services, supports, clinics, and other mental health and addiction services. Catholic Charities plays a vital role serving these groups within communities and we recognize the crises brought on by the pandemic. We urge you to support this funding.

Conclusion: Thank you for considering our testimony. Catholic social teaching reminds us to seek out the most vulnerable among us and to lift them up. During this most urgent time of need, we pray that you keep these populations in mind.


2022-23 Human Services Budget Testimony

Testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference regarding the 2022 – 2023 Human Services Budget submitted by Dennis Poust, executive director, NYS Catholic Conference.

February 2, 2022

Senator Krueger, Assembly Member Weinstein, distinguished members of the Senate and Assembly.

My name is Dennis Poust, and I am the executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference. The Catholic Conference advocates for issues of importance to the New York State Council of Catholic Charities Directors, the policy board for Catholic Charities and its programs operating in all 62 counties of this state. Catholic Charities’ 400 human services agencies from every region of the state serve the poor and vulnerable, aged, and infirm, immigrants and refugees, people with developmental and physical disabilities, people with mental illness, people with HIV/AIDS, those suffering from addiction, people and families who are homeless or facing housing insecurity, people who do not have enough food to feed their families, and many others. For more than 100 years, Catholic Charities has partnered with New York State in providing services, and it remains the largest non-governmental provider of human services in the state. More


2022-2023 Elementary and Secondary Education Budget Testimony

Testimony regarding the 2022 – 2023 Elementary and Secondary Education Budget, Joint Legislative Budget Elementary Education Hearing, submitted by James D. Cultrara, Executive Secretary, New York State Council of Catholic School Superintendents.

January 26, 2022

Introduction

While enduring the enormous challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic, Catholic schools have once again proven their dedication to and singular focus on the well-being of the children they serve. By faithfully implementing COVID safety protocols, our schools have been able to provide children and their families precisely what they have needed most: Safe, continuous, in-person instruction, while many other schools have not.

Our continued success, however, has not been without significant costs and setbacks. More than 30 Catholic schools closed due to the loss and reduction of income of our tuition-paying families. To maintain in-person instruction – under the strict health requirements of the state – schools were forced to shoulder many unanticipated costs: Hiring additional nurses and other staff, complying with masking and testing requirements, installing physical barriers and signage, purchasing personal protective equipment, acquiring cleaning supplies, arranging for ongoing sanitizing throughout and between each day, installing or modifying air purification equipment, purchasing and training for additional technology, collecting and reporting data to the Department of Health on a daily basis – the list goes on and on. Taken together thus far, these costs range between $1,000 to $5,000 per pupil. Although our schools have been eligible for some of the federal emergency COVID-relief programs, the relief is falling dramatically short of what is needed – and certainly far below the per/pupil level of support which has been made available to public schools.

Fortunately, Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget proposal reflects a much more positive financial outlook than what we would have anticipated a year ago. This economic upswing therefore enables lawmakers to support the state’s Catholic and other religious and independent schools in a way that will help our schools fill the financial and programmatic gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. Accordingly, this testimony highlights key program areas in which increased state support is critically important. More