Kelly Hansen, executive director of the NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors (NYSCLMHD), says her members have "a drone’s view" of social safety net systems across all of the state’s counties. 

"The commissioners have relationships with mental health and addiction treatment clinics, hospitals, the criminal justice system, and children’s services," Hansen told Capital Tonight. "We are responsible for planning and oversight."

Indeed, her members are responsible for building critical services in communities throughout the state. But over the last 9 months, 20% of counties' state aid has been withheld by the Cuomo administration because of the state’s falling revenue, due to COVID-19. 

"Federal funding to New York State and counties is critically important to community behavioral health services," Hansen said. "For the past nine months, 20% of state aid to county mental health departments has been withheld. At the same time, calls to crisis lines and suicide lines have skyrocketed, as have deaths due to overdose."

According to Hansen, adults and children are experiencing loss, depression, and grief at levels never imagined.  

"We literally need a life line from Washington," Hansen explained.