Wait…. do you hear that? It’s the clock ticking until the availability of Mental Health Services are decimated even further that they already have been. Due to the Alabama Legislature’s inability to pass a budget, a SECOND (yes a SECOND) Special Session as been called, and if our Legislature does not pass a budget by September 30th, all essential programs will be shut down. The Department of Mental Health is considered to be essential, so that means what’s left of our already barebones mental health system will be closed.
In the first special session a budget was drafted that called for a 5% decrease in the Department of Mental Health’s budget, which might not sound like a lot, but they’re already keeping things going with chewing gum and shoestrings. They’ve also not had any kind of funding increase in over four years, and costs have increased. Department of Mental Health isn’t asking for an increase (although that would be amazing); they’re just asking for LEVEL FUNDING, which means no decrease. Any decrease is a Double Whammy for Department of Mental Health because the state funds it receives are matched by the federal government… and remember, we don’t like Whammys.
Governor Bentley has called for a tax increase to create more revenue in the state’s General Fund in order to fund programs like DMH, but the majority of our elected officials ran on a “No New Taxes” platform, so they won’t approve the increases. The default solution to the lack of money has been to slash state agencies, like Medicaid, Mental Health, State Parks and the list goes on and on. A large number of Alabama State Troopers (you know, the ones that protect us) will be laid off, Many of our state representatives and state senators have said that they never hear from their constituents (i.e. YOU AND ME) on these issues, so the deem them as being unimportant and free game for the chopping block, all in the name of not raising taxes and being re-elected (term limits could be a good thing…that’s another argument for another day).
Alabama Arise is leading the charge to let our state’s elected officials know that we DO care… and they’ve come up with a great campaign to get the message across. The Stand Tall Alabama initiative is rallying support with their website and Facebook page, but the idea to start a postcard blitz to our legislators takes a things a more personal step further. By getting these postcards in the hands of each legislator with a personal message about one or any of the programs that will be impacted by the proposed cuts, Stand Tall Alabama is helping citizens show that they support the well being of all Alabamians. When I first heard of this campaign, thanks to Donna Leslie of the Montgomery Mental Health Authority, I knew I wanted to actively support it, and asked Donna to get me a complete set of postcards (they’re pre-addressed and stamped… one for each legislator) so that I could send a message to each of them. I’ve tried to make the messages as amusing and interesting as possible in hopes that when they read my message that they will at least smile. They need to realize that we are individuals trusting each of them, regardless of political affiliation, to handle this huge behemoth of a problem.
Here is one of my favorites that I’ve written:
The responsibility to stand up with those who need it in order to make their voices louder is important. If you’re looking for a way to help Stand Tall Alabama and all of us that realize the importance of Mental Health funding (as well as the other state agencies that will be impacted), here’s what you can do:
If you are from out of state, please consider liking and sharing the Stand Tall Alabama Facebook page on Facebook with your friends. Making some noise about this on social media just might help, and Lord knows we need it!