City's $92.8B budget funds mental health, abortion care

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council members on Friday afternoon announced an agreement on the city's $92.8 billion budget for fiscal 2020, with initiatives to improve health care access at its forefront.

The budget includes $26 million to place 200 additional social workers—including 85 working within the city's mental health initiative, ThriveNYC—in public schools to help students experiencing crises and mental health issues.

The mayor's office said ThriveNYC will undergo a redesign of its mental health training program. The so-called Mental Health Service Corps., it said, will partner with New York City Health + Hospitals to streamline its operational efficiency. As a result, the city expects to save $20 million, starting in fiscal 2020, and $11 million of that amount will be reinvested in the social worker program.

The budget includes $250,000 for the New York Abortion Access Fund. The allocation makes the city the first in the nation to directly fund abortion care and will help more than 500 people each year—from across the U.S.—cover the cost of their abortions.

"The numerous abortion bans coming out of hostile state legislatures across this country have pushed abortion care out of reach for millions and often punish those seeking or providing abortions," said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health and the NIRH Action Fund, in a statement. "But once again New York is leading the charge when it comes to protecting and advancing a woman's right to make her own decisions about her body, life and future."

De Blasio said in a statement that the budget "creates greater fairness for all New Yorkers." He also referenced the funding for abortions, saying the budget "fights the widespread national attack on access to abortion care."

The budget includes $25 million to launch the NYC Care initiative to guarantee health care access for 600,000 uninsured New Yorkers.

Additionally, Mark Levine, chairman of the City Council health committee, said Friday that he and public health advocates across the city lauded the $6 million in funding that will restore Article 6 programs recently cut from the state budget. The funding will support programs such as those for immigrant health, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and child and maternal health.

"Restoring this funding will keep intact essential public health programs focused on improving health outcomes for vulnerable New Yorkers," Levine said in a statement. "If we had allowed the Albany cuts to stand, it would have been a major setback for health equity in our city."

The budget, the mayor's office said, includes more than $300 million in new savings in addition to the $2.5 billion recently achieved in the citywide savings program. The administration's Program to Eliminate the Gap and a reduction of some 2,600 city-funded positions contributed to the savings.

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