Additional cuts in Governor Murphy’s budget proposal have led to the reduction of aid for school based mental health counseling and municipal anti-drug programs for children. The 10th District Legislators, Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano are warning parents of the damaging effects that could result from the loss of these significant programs for young people and students. The lawmakers believe the Governor is underestimating the need for drug abuse and mental health counseling for students, especially during these isolating times.
Senator Holzapfel and Assemblymen McGuckin and Catalano warn that funding cuts in Governor Murphy’s proposed budget endanger crucial programs providing mental health counseling support and anti-drug programs for school students. (Pixabay)
“We are in the midst of a complete transformation of the school education system and these children have been through enough emotional challenges since the beginning of the shutdowns,” stated Senator Holzapfel. “Programs such as School Linked Services and the Municipal Alliance programs provide support beyond the home and classroom. Our Governor is out of touch with the needs of our students and it’s obvious he cares more about creating ‘baby bonds’ and diverting school aid to urban districts.”
The School Linked Services Program, which provides a multitude of services including suicide prevention and substance abuse education for students in elementary through high school, has been slashed by more than $10 million.
“These state funded programs help parents access behavioral health services for children and adolescents and has had a positive impact for so many families for years,” added Assemblyman McGuckin. “These programs are vital to so many students and they are in jeopardy of closing entirely if they’re not fully restored. Gutting them during a time when we’ve seen mental health and drug abuse issues on the rise is wrong.”
The legislators were contacted by Lauren Blann, a nurse practitioner and mother of a student at Veterans Memorial Middle School in Brick Township, who understand the severity of funding cuts to programs such as the School Based Youth Services program. She wrote to the lawmakers to highlight the benefits these programs provide for her son and expressed concerns for the upcoming school year.
“I am deeply impacted by the proposal in Governor Murphy’s budget to cut the School Based Youth Services program this year,” stated Blann. “My son began receiving services through the School Based program last year and for the first time in all his years of school he found someone who was willing to listen to him and advocate on his behalf. If this program is cut, the effects will be devastating and our children will pay the ultimate price.”
In addition, the Municipal Alliance Program which is run by the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse will have their funding reduced. This program provides drug education to both students and parents through both school and community-based programs.
The 10th District legislators understand the importance of drug abuse education and counselling especially to those suffering from opioid addiction. The opioid crisis has directly affected thousands of residents in their area for many years. With overdose rates on the rise, the lawmakers are concerned that without these crucial programs, children and young adults who rely on counseling will suffer the most.
“It’s no secret that drug abuse education and school counseling are major factors in keeping kids mentally and physically healthy,” added Assemblyman Catalano. “There are countless families that have no other methods of accessing the types of services these programs provide. All children deserve an opportunity to seek help at school and without programs such as this, I fear for the consequences that will follow.”
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