Fighting for Health & Mental Health

As a mother, the health and well-being of my family is always a major concern. So, as the 2016 Legislative Session came to a close last week, I was especially gratified to shepherd, support and pass several initiatives that will work to improve health and mental health outcomes for the people of my Assembly District. mental-health

Whether it is a mother, sister, daughter, friend, or yourself, too many of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. Early detection is key to fighting this disease and we sponsored and passed legislation that would remove the obstacles of cost and inconvenient hours that keep too many women from getting mammograms. By expanding hours at hospitals and clinics and removing co-pays, women will have better access to potentially lifesaving services that detect breast cancer at an early stage when treatment is most effective.

This session we continued our battle against Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, an epidemic that has disproportionately impacted our beautiful Hudson Valley region. Legislation we authored and passed increases awareness and focuses on efforts to curb the spread of Lyme disease. Specifically, these bills provide students and teachers with age-appropriate instructional materials, educate the public about simple prevention methods and create guidelines to help residents keep ticks away from their home and property.

The Legislature and governor agreed last week on a package of bills that address the devastating heroin and opioid epidemic that has reached crisis levels in the Hudson Valley and the state. The package includes limiting opioid prescriptions, increasing access to treatment and supporting recovery services. While these are all positive steps in this daunting fight to save lives and curb addiction, much more needs to be done and significantly more resources allocated, especially to support long-term recovery programs and treatment services. I will continue to fight for those resources.

I have long believed that significantly more attention and resources must be focused on mental and behavioral health. I was pleased to provide Dutchess County with $1.5 million in the state budget to support reforms to the criminal justice system that focus more on mental health, drug addiction and special populations. This funding will not only help better serve a vulnerable population, but I have assurances from County Executive Molinaro that these funds will enable the county to reshape mental health services as a model for counties across the nation, while also providing needed tax relief.

While we were able to deliver important funding and legislation that impact the health and well-being of our communities, there is clearly more to be done at the local, state and federal levels.  For one, mental and behavioral health must be treated with the parity it deserves in policy, training and funding across the board; and efforts to eliminate the stigma associated with these conditions, including addiction, demand a major public education campaign. To share your thoughts on these and any other issues, please email our office at

About Diner Dialogues

Didi Barrett was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election in March 2012 and re-elected to a full term in November 2012. Her district, the 106th AD, covers some of the most beautiful parts of Columbia and Dutchess Counties. She has deep roots in the Hudson Valley and came to elected office after a career as a community activist, writer and longtime leader of not-for-profit organizations. Didi is passionate about the agricultural, natural, cultural and historic resources of the Hudson Valley and their critical importance as economic engines and job generators. She is also a great fan of the iconic diners that dot the region. As a member of the Assembly she serves on the Committees on Aging; Agriculture; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry; Mental Health; Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development and Veterans Affairs.
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