Youth Make Case for Social Services to Their Legislators
LEWISTON- Young people who say they now have hope for the future because of life-saving mental health and social services shared their stories with local legislators January 25 at a “Legislative Dialogue Café” hosted by Tri-County Mental Health Services at the Carriage House.
Five members of Youth M.O.V.E. Maine told Rep. Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston) and Rep. Brian Bolduc (D-Auburn) individual stories of how combinations of mental health services, area homeless shelters, subsidized housing, drug court, case management, community-based services, a system of care youth committee, and natural peer supports have helped them and/or their immediate family members manage depression, self-abuse, and the effects of trauma, neglect, and violence.
- “If services get cut, then I won’t be able to continue working towards my goal to get off disability and go to college to be a nurse or CSI. I want to provide my son the best life. I won’t be able to do these things and stop the abuse in my family if cuts are made.”
- “It costs taxpayers more to keep a person in jail than it does to provide them community-based services. Before I went to drug court, I didn’t know help was out there, and I did not know how to ask for it. In drug court, I learned about services that have helped me stay safe and drug-free so that I can finish high school.”
- “Without all the resources that the foster care and mental health systems have provided me, I wouldn’t be sober now and in college. Because of services, I am studying to become a social worker to help kids like I was– in group homes, foster homes, and homeless.”
The Legislators congratulated the youth on their compelling stories, their strength and their resilience. They explained the struggle Maine is in to close its budget gap, and why the largest cuts are aimed at education and health and human services.
“I encourage you all to continue telling your stories,” said Rep. Rotundo, who acknowledged the young people’s emphasis that cuts in services will have a negative ripple effect on them, their famlies and their peer supports.
Rep. Bolduc agreed with the youth that short-term gains have long-term consequences, and that services are cost-effective in supporting recovery and independence.