Lawmakers are celebrating the passage of a national mental health reform bill, but in Connecticut, the cheers are short-lived.
Critics in Connecticut see it as taking one step forward and two steps back.
Gov. Dannel Malloy has said this is not something he wanted to do, but doesn’t have the power to cut more elsewhere.
“We passed the Mental Health Reform Act through the Health Committee in a unanimous, bipartisan vote,” said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy.
Republicans and democrats teamed up on the national bill that makes it easier for people with mental illness to get health care.
While there is a reason to celebrate, the timing isn’t great in Connecticut.
This week, Malloy proposed a $7 million reduction to the Department of Mental Health Services, and more than $1 million could be cut from mental health grants.
"We are not doing this with a butcher knife - we are doing it as carefully as we can, looking at all factors and relying on input from commissioners,” Malloy said.
Overall, the state is facing a $220 million deficit and Malloy proposed $65 million in cuts.
The governor said he didn’t want to trim from mental health, but had no choice because under state law, he can only cut certain parts of the budget by 5 percent or less.
The local cuts come at a time when Murphy is lobbying for more mental health money, at least on the federal level.
“There is a bipartisan commitment from everyone working on this bill to make sure when it comes to the floor, hopefully after our spring recess, that we add to it significant new resources to expand outpatient and inpatient capacity,” Murphy said.
For parents of Sandy Hook victims who have been championing the legislation every step of the way, they’re hoping their home state can find a way to lead the way.
“Right now, we're supporting and applauding Sen. Chris Murphy for this piece of legislation. That's another issue, another conversation for another day,” said Mark Barden, father of Daniel Barden.
A lot of work needs to be ironed out on the state and federal level. The bill is now before the Senate.
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