“Just say no” to further NDD cuts
November 09, 2012
November 09, 2012
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An open letter to the Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, the Honorable Mitch McConnel, Senate Minority Leader, the Honorable John Boehner, Speaker of the House, and the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader (Download a copy of the letter here)
As you begin negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff, the Children’s Mental Health Network—an alliance of providers, families, policy-makers and community members with a passion for improving health and mental health services for children and families — urges you to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs like mental health, public health and research. These programs have already contributed to deficit reduction through the bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA) and prior spending cuts.
To date, enacted deficit reduction strategies have focused on cuts to discretionary spending alone, despite calls for a balanced approach from bipartisan groups of experts — including the Simpson-Bowles commission and the Domenici-Rivlin workgroup. NDD programs have already been cut 7 percent through the bipartisan BCA’s discretionary spending caps, as prescribed by Simpson-Bowles. When combined with the pre-BCA cuts of 10 percent since FY 2010, NDD spending as a share of GDP has dropped to just 2.8 percent from its historical average of 4 percent—the lowest level since the Eisenhower administration. And this is before sequestration’s indiscriminate, 8.2 percent cuts could take effect January 2, 2013.
The mental health community is already feeling the effects of this unbalanced approach to deficit reduction. We know that one in five youth have a serious emotional challenge and that one-half of children with serious mental health needs are not getting the help they need. This can only be exacerbated by further cuts in the mental health and public health arena. Integrating mental health and resilience skills in every environment that has an impact on child development from birth is essential to the success of children, families, and the community. NDD programs play a vital role in providing the services and supports that help create safe and supportive communities that encourage and engage all young people and their families, regardless of their challenges, to reach their full potential. And yet, 55,000 state and local public health professionals have been laid off—those who monitor and respond to outbreaks, immunize children and the elderly, and inspect restaurants. Scientists are losing important ground as labs and research centers are beginning to close. Students seeking health care, public health, and research careers are turned away for a lack of advanced training opportunities. Americans with insurance can’t find primary health care providers, especially in rural areas. And returning service members with the invisible wounds of war suffer in silence as the mental health care system buckles under the weight of overwhelming demand. The families we are dedicated to improving services for cut across the political spectrum – they are all part of your constituency. Pick any of the NDD options to be cut and it affects the families of children with mental health challenges. It is for this reason that we are not focusing on our particular needs with this request but are advocating a broad-stroke approach that says, “No more cuts to NDD programs.” NDD programs are not the reason behind our growing debt. In fact, even completely eliminating all NDD programs would still not balance the budget.
NDD programs have already done their part to reduce the deficit, as recommended by the Simpson-Bowles commission and enacted through the bipartisan BCA. Continued cuts will have consequences for every American, threatening the health, safety, and competiveness of the United States. Americans may be left waiting longer for help after natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. They may experience longer wait times for health care professionals in their community. And this is just the impact on public health. Classroom size may increase as teachers are laid off. Roads and bridges might not be repaired as quickly. Gang violence and other illicit activity may increase with fewer police officers on the streets.
The Children’s Mental Health Network earlier this year joined 3,000 national, state, and local organizations in calling for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that addresses the true drivers of the debt and does not include further cuts to NDD programs. To help you now reach a bipartisan, balanced compromise that does not deepen the reductions that NDD programs have already sustained, we encourage you to review impact examples of cuts to NDD programs on the Coalition for Health Funding website at http://www.publichealthfunding.org/ under “NDD United.” We are a proud member of the Coalition and encourage you to use the materials on their website as a resource to help you in your work to restore fiscal stability.
President & CEO
Cc: President Barack Obama