Every year, the Massachusetts House begins the budget process by receiving the Governor’s proposed budget. The House adjusts the budget to include items most needed by constituents. As Chair of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse and Boston’s 11th Suffolk District State Representative, I heard your concerns and advocated for initiatives that will best serve our community.
This year’s House budget makes notable investments for behavioral health, including new funding of more than $28 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services and $13 million for the Department of Mental Health. It provides 46 new transitional support services beds – a 13% boost statewide – and 45 substance addiction treatment beds for women. It increases funding for substance abuse services to $128 million, approximately $6 million over the Governor’s proposal. Of this increase, $2 million funds the above mentioned beds, $100,000 funds improvements in statewide healthcare training protocols for treating newborns experiencing neonatal abstinence syndrome, and $100,000 supports substance abuse intervention and prevention initiatives in Grove Hall.
Relative to district priorities, I advocated for services that lay the foundation for a “cradle to career” pipeline. Among many, a major priority was to ensure the financial stability and physical integrity of Roxbury Community College. With the help of my fellow Boston representatives, we streamlined and enhanced funding to the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.
For many years, the Track Center was part of the Roxbury Community College budget line item. A coordinated advocacy effort won a separate line item for the Track Center, which will allow the state to fund the Reggie Lewis Center to the best of its ability without diverting resources from the College’s core educational services. The Reggie Lewis Center was funded at $900,000. I will also continue pushing for the rehabilitation of the Askia mansion, former home of FIRST Academy.
Head Start receives an additional $500,000, which will provide services to prepare children for school while working to develop each child’s social and learning skills. Youth job programming receives an additional $700,000.
To complement the work of youth jobs programming, the plan includes $250,000 to ensure proper programming for Vocational and Dual Enrollment programs. Vocational programming allows students to obtain hands-on training and in some instances on-the-job training in high-paying sectors such as clean energy, information technology, and healthcare. Dual Enrollment funding gives students an easy and clear pathway to college, by allowing vocational high school students to also take college courses. As a result, students obtain college credits before leaving high school, setting a foundation for success for when a student enters college.
The House budget is only one part of the budget process. After the Senate completes their budget in late May, the House and Senate meet to reconcile the differences. Finally, it is sent to the Governor’s desk for his review and approval.
I thank all of my constituents who have called my office to voice their support for the budget items that are most important to the community. I welcome your continued support, and I look forward to working with you to pass a state budget that benefits everyone in the community.
State Rep. Liz Malia, D-Jamaica Plain, was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1998. She is the chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.