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Watson Coleman & Coutinho: Open Debate Needed with so Many Budget Needs Unmet

(TRENTON) — Assembly Democrats Bonnie Watson Coleman and Albert Coutinho released the following statements Tuesday on testimony on the governor’s proposed budget for mental health care and addiction services during Tuesday’s Assembly Budget Committee public hearing:

Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon):
“I want to thank the mental health advocates and the users of mental health services who came to the hearing to discuss the very important matter of mental health care and addiction services and how New Jersey funds it year after year. Their input is always valued and appreciated, and their stories and needs are always touching.

“New Jersey’s approach to mental health care and addiction services has always been problematic, with so many holes in the system and so many going without the help they need. If we’re to have an honest discussion about a budget plan, we must know exactly what New Jersey’s needs are when it comes not only to mental health care and addiction services, but each and every need in our state, even if that means voicing concern in an environment where even constructive criticism is unwelcome by some elected officials.

“I look forward to a continued open and honest discussion to devise a budget plan that’s as effective as we can make it.”

Coutinho (D-Essex):
“I appreciate the words of advice today and the strong show of support from our mental health and addiction services community. Their comments emphasizing the need to preserve access to services was extraordinary, and it will certainly be something we keep in mind as we move forward to finalize a budget plan.

“But so many needs have gone unmet for so many. After all, 50 percent of mental health needs and 20 percent of addiction services go unmet.

“We have major gaps in our services that will not be closed under this plan, and while I understand we cannot meet each and every need, we need an open discussion of such crucial issues. If we’re to devise a plan that serves residents better, we need to know what improvements are needed, and how other states handle such tough and delicate issues.

“Let’s have an open debate, not one in which people hesitate because of the often harsh politics we’ve seen develop in our state. Let’s work together to make our state better.”