Delegates and special guests are invited to attend a closing night in-person reception with Governor Phil Murphy in Asbury Park

Asbury Park Press

Dear Gov. Murphy:

On your website, you state that you believe “health care is a right, not a privilege, and (that you) will work to ensure that all New Jerseyans have access to affordable health care.” With respect to mental health for youth, in a press release last year you asserted that your administration is “striving to do all that (it) can to improve health and wellness for our students,” and that your specific legislative efforts seek to “enhance student understanding, attitudes, and behaviors related to mental health to promote well-being.”

While, politically, words like these are certainly convenient to say, unfortunately, your administration’s recent actions do not square at all with your rhetoric.

More: Lacey diner owner, who defied Murphy, feels ‘really good’ that indoor dining is back


Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Last SlideNext Slide

As you are no-doubt aware, your budget calls for elimination of economic support for 91 school-based support programs statewide.

One of the most prominent recipients of that assistance is The Source of Red Bank Regional High School (located in your home county of Monmouth). I served on the board of the Source’s 501(c)3 fund-raising arm, known as the Source Foundation, for a number of years and was president of the Foundation for two years. The foundation’s volunteers dedicate their time and talents because they are inspired by the Source’s extraordinarily dedicated staff. The Source’s professionals provide compassionate in-school counseling to at-risk children who many times have nowhere else to turn.

Red Bank Regional High School is shown in this undated photograph. (Photo: Courtesy of Red Bank Regional officials)

Furthermore, the Source’s efforts are totally aligned with your stated commitment of supporting the mental health, well-being, and educational success of students.

Specifically, such services include:

  • Suicide prevention
  • Individual, group and family counseling
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Conflict resolution
  • Preventative medical, dental & eye care
  • Academic support and tutoring
  • Scholarship programs

In case you were unaware of your administration’s actions, under the envisioned cuts, the Source would lose about $277,000 in annual state funding, the removal of which will all but shutter their operation.

More: LETTER: Sen. O’Scanlon should encourage Murphy to postpone the gas tax increase

You must be aware that today’s youth are struggling with a variety of mental health issues at a nightmarish rate. Against that background, it is astonishing that you would choose to send a clear message that student well-being is, in reality, not a priority, despite what you’ve said publicly. While these cuts may make a minute dent in the budget deficit — think of the human cost. How sad it would be if all our government in Trenton can offer is a round of thoughts and prayers after an otherwise preventable student tragedy occurs in the absence of such programs.

It shouldn’t have to come to that. You still have time to act. You have a chance to walk the walk and show that, in this state, student mental health is more than just a political talking point.

Please reverse this decision to cut funding from valuable programs like the Source.

Thank you for your time.

Gregg T. Abella is a resident of Little Silver

Read or Share this story: