Resource

Testimony: Department of Mental Health Proposed Budget (FY12)

Children’s Law Center executive director Judith Sandalow testified regarding the proposed Department of Mental Health Fiscal Year 2012 Budget, expressing concerns about the harmful consequences of proposed cuts.

There are three proposed cuts in the DMH budget which will have significant negative consequences for children’s services:

  • More than $3 million in cuts to Mental Health Rehabilitation Services (MHRS), which will result in a large number of children failing to get services they need and the District losing significant federal Medicaid matching funds, which are also relied upon to provide mental health services to children and families.
  • A $300,000 cut to the Assessment Center, which provides mental health consultations and comprehensive psychiatric and psychological assessments in D.C. family court cases. DMH hopes to recover a portion of this cut by charging fees to certain families who can afford to pay, however CLC doubts the sliding scale will generate significant revenue given the Assessment Center largely serves low-income families.
  • A $2.5 million cut to the Child and Family Services Agency budget – funding which is normally provided by CFSA to DMH for mental health services for children in the child welfare system. This funding has been used in the past for services including foster parent training, psychiatric residential treatment diversion programs and direct evidence-based services, such as Family Functional Therapy. 

Our attorneys routinely cite lack of appropriate mental health services as the greatest barrier to success faced by children they represent. The proposed cuts to DMH will result in even more children going untreated, with their behaviors escalating until they are in crisis, in the emergency room, in juvenile detention, foster care or residential treatment.

Sandalow also highlighted that proposed cuts undermine the goals of the South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011 – legislation recently introduced by Committee on Health Chairman David A. Catania. The bill seeks to improve mental health services for District youth and ameliorate truancy. Sandalow encouraged Catania to show the same commitment and energy for restoring critical DMH funds as he has pledged for implementing the act.

Lastly, Sandalow explained the cuts will harm the District’s ability to implement mental health services required as part of the LaShawn A. federal class action lawsuit. 

Read the full testimony here