As state budget negotiations continue in earnest, mental health advocates are lobbying to get a state income tax check-off for a mental illness anti-stigma fund included in the budget. Legislation to do this passed the Assembly and is included in the Senate’s budget proposal, according to the Mental Health Association of New York State.
Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are negotiating the state budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts April 1.
In a recent online newsletter, Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York State, said advocates have been pushing for years to get an income tax check-off for mental health public awareness. “The terrible stigma of mental illness has repercussions that lead to workplace and housing discrimination, bullying in schools, harassment, intimidation and even violence against people with mental illness,” he wrote.
The state Office of Mental Health would use the donations for grants to organizations dedicated to eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness and people with mental-health needs.
The income tax check-off program has been mired in some controversy of late because money donated for cancer causes has not been distributed. The Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, a Gannett newspaper, reported the problem last October. That led to a report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office that recommended the state strengthen and standardize requirements for state agencies that handle tax check-off funds.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal in January included measures to simplify the administration of donations for prostate cancer research and education and restructure the state Health Research Science Board, which recommends how to distribute contributions for breast cancer, the Democrat & Chronicle reported in February. The budget proposal calls for adding an income tax check-off fund for donations to public financing of political campaigns.
There is another piece of legislation in the Assembly and Senate that would allow for a personal income tax check-off and a corporate franchise tax check-off for diabetes research and education.
Currently there are 10 funds that taxpayers can contribute to in New York.