Lawmakers emphasize cost-of-living adjustment in mental health budget

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ALBANY, NY (WENY) — In the ninth of thirteen budget hearings, lawmakers highlighted a variety of issues in mental health including wraparound services and the opioid settlement fund but the focal point was the cost-of-living adjustment.

For the second year in a row, the governor included the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in the state budget.

But some lawmakers said her proposal of a 2.5% increase for human service providers is not enough.

“If we are considering minimum wage increase to inflation, why are we not using the consumer price index to develop the COLA every year?” said Assembly Member Aileen Gunther (D-Assembly District 100), during questioning.

Ann Sullivan, New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner responded, the process of increasing the COLA is very complex.

“I believe that the technology that has to do with how COLAs are determined is intricate and I think that this year again I just have to emphasize that this is a back-to-back COLA for the first time in a long time,” Sullivan said.

Lawmakers also emphasized throughout the hearing, making wraparound services–or services and supports for children, youth, and families in their homes, schools, and community–more accessible.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s total system spending for mental hygiene in her budget this year proposes $10.5 billion–an annual spending growth of 7.2%.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-35th Senate District) said Gov. Hochul’s proposals are good but feels there is more work to be done.

“It’s like so many things in the budget, there’s always more that can be done but again the fact that it is a focal point for everyone for all the best reasons, and not only outside but in our schools, in our classrooms–trying to make sure that those services are available I think will continue to be a priority for us,” Leader Stewart-Cousins said.


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