St. Louis-area advocates for health and community care came together Monday morning to speak against budget cuts proposed by the Missouri Senate.
Of concern to these groups are House Bills 10 and 11. In its budget legislation, the Senate cut roughly $130 million from social support and health programs. The Senate version would specifically reduce funding by 4 percent to 6 percent for programs within the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health and Senior Services. These changes would reduce health care for Medicaid participants and lessen help for abused children and youth in the juvenile justice system.
Missouri Health Care for All’s Jen Bersdale said these budget cuts forced social-service advocates to make a false choice between which populations they would rather protect.
“Our General Assembly should pass a final budget with no cuts to services, and should instead focus their efforts on how to extend services to those who are currently falling through the cracks, until every member of our community and our state is able to receive the care and the services that they need,” Bersdale said.
Catholic Family Services’ Executive Director Tom Duff said that the events in Ferguson make it particularly urgent that Missouri retain funding for mental health services. “Our Senate is discussing deep cuts into mental health at a time when we are experiencing some of the most traumatic events as a community and state.”
Speakers argued that the budget cuts would disproportionately harm low-income, elderly and disabled individuals. They also emphasized that the bill negatively impacted people trying to manage mental illness, children recovering from abuse and others who have limited access to care and resources.
Late last week the House rejected all but one of the Senate budget bills (see earlier article). At that time, Senate Republican leaders told St. Louis Public Radio's Marshall Griffin that they "refused to recede" from their position. Now they say they will work all night tonight — if need be — to pass new bills.
Speakers at this morning's news conference included:
· Jen Bersdale, Missouri Health Care for All
· Rev. Starsky Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
· Aimee Wehmeier, Paraquad
· Tom Duff, Catholic Family Services
· Jackie Lukitsch, NAMI-St. Louis
· Caroline Ban and Tina Mosley, Beyond Housing
· Maren Mellem, Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition
· Toni Burrow, PAKT
· Madeline Adams, Nurses for Newborns