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Gov. Mead Opposes Budget Cuts To Mental Health, Suicide Prevention

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Gov. Matt Mead vows to not further cut support for mental health and suicide programs in his proposed budget due in early December, he said Tuesday.

“With the cuts that were made last year, and the continuing cuts, there are some programs, like suicide prevention, I just think you would basically eliminate that program,” Mead said.

“I just think that is the wrong way to go for the state of Wyoming,” he said.

Mead commented on the crafting of his budget after he attended the groundbreaking for the Wyoming Rescue Mission’s new Park Street Center.

State revenues are faring better based on a new report, but they’re still not where they were before the energy bust.

Those factors affect the budget and state residents.

Last year, Mead recommended significant cuts to the Department of Health, and that meant reductions for mental health and suicide prevention services.

The budget bill passed by the Legislature this year included a recommendation — called Section 302 — to cut from the budget an additional $13 million or an equivalent amount in positions.

Mead will comply with that recommendation, to a point, he said.

“I’m going to make clear in my budget where we’re going to make those 320 cuts, but I’m not going to make all of them,” Mead said. “I’m going to disagree with some of those.”

Substance abuse and suicide prevention would be especially hard hit with those cuts, he said.

“We’re still trying to be conservative,” Mead said. “We’ll make cuts where we think it’s appropriate, but there are some areas where we’re not going to make cuts. In fact there are some areas where I’m going to ask for additional money.”

For example, the Department of Agriculture needs people and money to run the Wyoming State Fair, he said. “The State Fair would have a hard time having a State Fair, and those are things that are important to the state of Wyoming.”

“The good news is the revenue is up,” Mead said. “We’re going to be able to have a standard budget. We are going to be able to have some of these exceptional requests — that’s on the government operation side.”

However, education funding remains problematic, he said.

“We’re operating at a time where I’m going to present my budget without the benefit of the recalibration work being done,” Mead said.

Recalibration is a funding model examination process to determine what is considered an adequate education and the cost to deliver it. The process occurs every five years and was scheduled for 2020, but was moved up after Wyoming lawmakers approved an education spending plan in March that cuts $34.5 million from K-12 education.

Mead and lawmakers oppose increasing taxes to raise new money for schools.

He will unveil the budget on Dec. 1, and present it to the Joint Appropriations Committee on Dec. 4, he said.

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