Don't cut the safety net to shreds

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The State House News Service (subscription required) reports that

The state will lay off more than 300 mental health workers over the next several days, with about 300 more opting to accept voluntary retirements and layoffs as the Department of Mental Health moves forward with its closing of Westborough State Hospital.

The fact is the Governor has been cutting deeply into the safety for a long time, and at a rate that is alarming. See my blog on the Governor’s job cuts, which are 75% from safety net programs. In comparison, and I know this is counter-intuitive to some, Governor Romney’s cuts to safety net program jobs in 2005 and 2006 amounted to only 25% of the overall cuts to state employment.

Governor Patrick could do things differently. In policy briefs, op-eds and press-releases, we have outlined other reforms that could alleviate the need to cut into human services programs. See here, here, and here for just a flavor of what could be done.

Rep. Liz Malia, House chair of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, is right to call the loss of 600 positions at DMH “pretty disturbing and pretty distressing.”

And Sen. Jennifer Flanagan is right to note that

“…mental health workers are going to be a crucial part of getting people through the recession…”