ALBANY – Christina Hauptman is a single mother who works up to 60 hours per week to take care of her 14-year-old son who is struggling with mental health issues and has been waiting for access to support services for almost two years.
“I believe I’m really going to lose him before he gets his services,” Hauptman said. “I don’t know if he is going to live much longer, and if he doesn’t, it’s a direct result of not having the help he needs.”
She explained that after three prior suicide attempts, she is afraid that if her son remains unable to get the services he needs, he will eventually end his own life. And even though she has some connections through her job as a family support worker, she says there have been minimal treatment options to help him. He repeatedly has been placed on waitlists for admission to psychiatric facilities, amid other obstacles to care.
Hauptman is from Suffolk County, Long Island and traveled over four hours to the Legislative Office Building on Thursday morning to attend a forum held by state and regional mental health substance use disorder advocacy organizations seeking an increase in state funding for their programs.
The organizations are demanding that Gov. Kathy Hochul include a $500 million investment, and a 5.4 percent cost of living adjustment, to the upcoming 2022-2023 Executive Budget proposal.
Hauptman explained how it will help her son if these investments are made. “He would have the services he needs and deserves, and right now I worry each day that I’m not going to find him alive.”
Glenn Liebman, executive director of the Mental Health Association of New York State, moderated the forum of speakers. He explained why the dollars are needed statewide in the midst of the pandemic and the opioid crisis.
“Think of how many people would not have lost their lives to suicide completion and drug overdose. Think of how many people would not have deaths of despair and all of the people who would not be in homeless shelters and in the prison system. The world would be so different if we had that money. Well, now is the time to get it.”
When asked about correspondence from Gov. Hochul on the subject, Liebman said, “We’re optimistic about Gov. Hochul. She has been supportive of behavioral health issues.”
Other advocates at the forum expressed how state funding would benefit from investing in mental health and substance abuse programs.
“Funding these services actually saves money because funding them keeps people out of prisons, jails, hospitals, and homeless shelters, all of which cost so much more,” said Sebrina Barrett, executive director of the Association for Community Living. “So if you fund mental health, not only is it the right thing to do for the people that everyone in this room serves, but it’s going to save state dollars as well.”
Bill Gettman, board chair and CEO of Northern Rivers Family Services, talked about the need for nonprofits to be funded in order to sustain themselves and hire more staff.
“We need an investment of the 5.4 percent and the $500 million so we can hire more staff, train more clinicians, and increase salaries,” Gettman said. “The governor has changed the culture in Albany, however, she needs to change her budget. Because the budget is priorities, and values, and how we care about each other.”
Shaniece Holmes-Brown is an alumna of Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, graduating with two bachelor’s degrees in mass communications and English. She has been pursuing a career as a journalist for several years, having written for various publications and recently served as a reporting intern for the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association at the capitol in Harrisburg. She is currently a Hearst fellow covering breaking news at the Times Union. Reach her at Shaniece.Brown@TimesUnion.com