Why are NJ Democrats Cutting from Mental Health & Family Services?

I normally don’t write on these issues for a number of reasons, but after seeing this article that details $20.4 million in cuts to mental health and family services I’m hoping some Democrats here can answer why? Or more accurately,

In what universe do democrats start cutting through the bottom layer of the social safety net?

These are basic, or even firewall services for the most vulnerable of NJ’s citizens.

In the interests of disclosure, I sit on the board of a national child protection training organization headquartered out of the Midwest. We don’t receive any funding from NJ, but we do receive federal funding.

Our small staff provides much of the training and curriculum nationwide for front-line professionals dealing with issues of child abuse and neglect in the judicial process. These highly experienced staffers train both law enforcement professionals like detectives and prosecutors working in this area as well as social workers and counselors. In NJ, these professionals work together in what are called multi-disciplinary teams.  They are the folks who first see the children and families involved in cases of abuse or neglect and work with them throughout the legal process.

As you can imagine, these children and their families need continued mental health and social support services if they are to heal or recover and to go on to have normal lives in some respect.

New Jersey has one of the best programs in place in the country for providing mental health services to these children and their families after the court process has concluded.

And everything in NJ related to children and families runs through the Department of Children and Family Services or DCF, which stands to lose at least $11.5 million dollars under the Democratic budget.

Under former Governor Corzine, DCF was reformed under court order to become a very well-run, proactive organization. In fact, a well-known reporter at an Eagleton seminar a couple of years ago said that he was surprised that Corzine didn’t run on this issue alone. That reporter believes that Governor Corzine could have won in 2009 on this issue itself.

Current DCF Commissioner Allison Blake is highly regarded by NJ mental health professionals who work with children and families and has been working to make the organization more efficient and to improve training.

These Democratic budget cuts in a.) mobile response b.) in-home or at-home therapy and c.) in the DCF budget itself, put more kids at risk, and jeopardize the processes NJ mental health professionals have built over decades to help children and families through the trauma processes associated with abuse, neglect, violence and other social maladies and family dysfunctions.

In many cases these programs and professionals are operating at the bottom rungs of the ladder with families that have no resources or capacity to deal with these issues. And for those families that do have the resources and wherewithal to confront and deal with an issue of abuse or violence, these NJ programs ensure that that they don’t have to run around cobbling together private resources during a time of trauma and hurt.

They can focus on their kids, their own responses and the healing process instead.

Why would NJ Democrats want to tear that asunder?

The thoughts expressed here are my own and are not the opinion or thoughts of the Board on which I serve. I sit on both our 501(c)(4) and our 501(c)(3) boards.

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