Will our children become casualties in the state budget battle?
Any family enduring a budget crisis is faced with a difficult task — prioritizing where to cut back on expenses. They must decide which expenses are unnecessary, which can safely be postponed, and finally, which are absolutely essential. Ultimately, the new sofa will be cancelled and replacing the tires on the family car will be delayed. These sacrifices will be made for one reason: to ensure money is available to pay for what is essential, such as food, rent, or life-saving medications for their children.
The governor and state legislature of Connecticut currently face a similar task. State expenses far exceed income, so they too must determine which programs and initiatives qualify as essential. Then, they must ensure, before and after the 2018 – 2019 biennial budget is approved, that money is available to provide uninterrupted state funding for these programs.
What makes this such a challenging exercise is achieving consensus on what is essential. For some, it may seem essential to build a new bridge or repair a road. For others, it may seem essential to implement new senior programs or replace aging state vehicles. While one does not envy our elected officials in having to sort this all out, it is imperative they all agree that some things are always essential. This includes protecting the wellbeing of our children.
Here’s a good test: which programs or initiatives should receive state funding ahead of those that help keep children safe? Hopefully, for decision makers, this is merely a rhetorical question.
Keeping children safe and helping them reach their potential is the goal of the Child Guidance Center of Mid-Fairfield County, the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, the Child & Family Guidance Center, and the Clifford Beers Clinic. We are part of a network of independent, community-based nonprofit agencies contracted and funded by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide mental health services to the 20 percent of Connecticut children who suffer from a broad range of mental and behavioral disorders. We’ve been helping children and families for over 100 years.
Every year our agencies provide treatment to thousands of children in the greater Norwalk, Stamford, Greenwich, New Haven, and Bridgeport communities who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, self-injury, and suicidal thinking. For the vast majority of these children we are the only place where the high-quality clinical treatment they need is both available and affordable. In other words, without us there is nowhere else for them to go.
Continued funding from DCF is essential in the truest sense of the word. If our funding is interrupted or reduced we will be forced to suspend treatment to many of these children. The impact will be catastrophic — for the children, their families, our school systems, and our entire community. What is truly alarming is the impact on the hundreds of children we help that are at risk of hurting themselves. What will happen to them without treatment? Research has shown that without access to mental health treatment, more of them will attempt suicide.
Even in difficult times, protecting children must be our top priority. On behalf of the thousands of children in our community who depend on nonprofit agencies like ours to keep them safe, please call or email the governor and your local state legislators and implore them to ensure that nonprofit agencies that provide services essential to the wellbeing of our children continue to receive full and uninterrupted funding. Children’s lives depend on it.
Roy Berger, Chief Executive Officer
Child Guidance Center of Mid-Fairfield County
Alice Forrester, Chief Executive Officer
Clifford Beers Clinic
Michael Patota, President and Chief Executive Officer
The Child & Family Guidance Center
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