Op-Ed: Malloy budget proposes two harmful ‘hits’ to mental health center

I write in my capacity as chairman of the Yale Department of Psychiatry to let you know that, just weeks after the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission recommended renewed investment in mental health services, Gov. [Dannel] Malloy has proposed major budget cuts to the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services that would have a devastating impact on its training, research, and clinical missions.

Gov. Malloy’s budget proposes two “direct hits” to the function of the Connecticut Mental Health Center. The first would change a “one time” cut of $343,000 into a permanent cut to its budget. This cut would cause the loss of 2.5 psychiatrists who currently treat 500 patients.

Op-ed submit bugThe second would devastate the research at the Connecticut Mental Health Center by cutting it by $786,000 annually. These cuts could cause the loss of nearly 100 researchers, clinical and research staff, and trainees who are helping to find the causes and new treatments for mental illness.

The cuts would be harmful. Connecticut Mental Health researchers provide innovative treatments free of charge and regardless of their capacity to pay. They have generated new treatments for addiction and depression and have been at the cutting edge of testing new treatments for schizophrenia, PTSD, anxiety disorders, and other illnesses. Further, the Connecticut Mental Health has trained innovators and leaders in Connecticut and around the world.

The proposed cuts are also senseless. There is more to lose than to save with the cuts. For each dollar that the governor invests in research at the Connecticut Mental Health Center, $7 in additional funds are brought into Connecticut through federal grants and contracts.

Further, the funds provided to the Connecticut Mental Health Center research laboratories are, essentially, paid back to the state government each year through fees called “indirect costs” on federal grants received by researchers. Connecticut Mental Health Center research is generating jobs for the people of Connecticut.

Yale faculty at the Connecticut Mental Health Center helped bring the Pfizer Clinical Research Facility to New Haven. They also created companies based on research advances, such as Neurogen in Branford and Biohaven Medical Sciences in New Haven.

If this work is important to you, then please let your state representatives and the Appropriations Committee chairs know that these cuts must be overturned.

Find and contact your state legislator using this link. Contact the co-chairs of the Appropriations Committee: Sen. Beth Bye and Rep. Toni Walker.

You may also submit written testimony to the Appropriations Committee by emailing apptestimony@cga.ct.gov.  Any testimony must be submitted by today, March 6. In your testimony, please be sure to identify your home town and/or Congressional district.

Thank you for your interest and support. The Connecticut Mental Health Center is a jewel. The proposed cuts would undermine the Connecticut Mental Health Center and set back efforts to improve the lives of people with mental illness.

John H. Krystal, M.D., is chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

 

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