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Gov. Nixon, education leaders and mental health providers in sou - KOAM TV 7

Gov. Nixon, education leaders and mental health providers in southwest Missouri discuss negative impact of House Bill 253 on core public services

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NEWS RELEASE ISSUED SEPTEMBER 4, 2013 BY THE OFFICE OF MISSOURI GOVERNOR JAY NIXON

Gov. Nixon, education leaders and mental health providers in southwest Missouri discuss negative impact of House Bill 253 on core public services

Joplin, Mo. – Gov. Jay Nixon met with education leaders and mental health care providers from throughout southwest Missouri at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin to discuss the impact of House Bill 253 on public education and services provided by the Department of Mental Health.

“Across Missouri, dozens of local schools boards and business organizations have spoken out against House Bill 253 and the drastic cuts to education that would be required to pay for its colossal price tag,” Gov. Nixon said. “The more folks learn about this bill and its flaws, the more concerned they become about why some members of the General Assembly would support such a fiscally irresponsible approach. House Bill 253 is a dangerous experiment that Missourians don’t want, and can’t afford.”

Last week, members of Joplin Board of Education voted unanimously to write letters to local legislators asking them to sustain the Governor’s veto of House Bill 253. Additionally, more than 80 school boards and local boards of education from across Missouri have passed resolutions urging the legislature to sustain the Governor’s veto of House Bill 253, including boards in the Aurora, Cassville, Crane, Diamond, Greenfield, Wheaton and Springfield public school districts.

“With graduation rates on the rise and a new Joplin High School opening next year, I could not be prouder of the progress this district has made,” said Joplin Superintendent C.J. Huff. “Today, our public schools are more important than ever to the continued growth and vitality of our community. That is why I believe that the General Assembly must sustain the Governor’s veto of House Bill 253. This bill will take us backward by reducing funding for our schools and limiting opportunities for students. This is not the time for policies that could damage schools. We stand with Governor Nixon in opposition to this plan and urge our elected representatives to do the same.”

Data released by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shows the negative impact that House Bill 253 would have on schools in southwest Missouri. When fully implemented, the cost each year could be $1.7 million for Joplin schools, $1.7 million for Carthage schools, $923,000 for Monett schools, $1.6 million for Neosho schools, and $1.5 million for Webb City schools. If the Federal Marketplace Fairness Act becomes law, the cost for the current year could be $2.9 million for Joplin schools, $2.9 million for Carthage schools, $1.5 million for Monett schools, $2.8 million for Neosho schools, and $2.6 million for Webb City schools.

A copy of the spreadsheet provided to Missouri Association of School Administrators regarding the annual impact to all Missouri school districts can be found here.

An analysis by the Missouri National Education Association, AFT-Missouri and the Missouri State Teachers Association found that cuts to public school budgets if House Bill 253 became law would be the equivalent of eliminating between 5,000 and 9,000 teachers across Missouri.

Additionally, a recent report requested by the Missouri Mental Health Commission found that an override of the Governor’s veto of House Bill 253 would also result in $164 million in cuts to services provided by the Department of Mental Health, including services for children with autism and their families.

For its analysis, the Department of Mental Health also used the General Assembly’s own fiscal estimate. The Department projects General Revenue reductions to the DMH budget of $87 million. Because many services offered by DMH also use federal matching dollars, the total reduction in the department’s budget is projected to be approximately $164 million.

According to its report, the Department of Mental Health would have to take a number of actions to make up for the budget reductions, including reducing funding for the five DMH Regional Autism Projects across Missouri by 25 percent ($1.8 million) and reduce DMH funding to the Missouri Autism diagnostic centers by 25 percent ($1 million).

“House Bill 253 has a high potential to negatively impact the families and communities we serve,” said Dr. Keith Schafer, Director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health. “Weakening our mental health safety net will undermine public safety and put hundreds of individuals at risk. Furthermore, the closing of beds at the Hawthorn Children's Psychiatric Hospital and the loss of housing services for people with mental illness are especially troubling, as persons with mental illness are at greater risk for homelessness and suicide.”

Programs and services offered through the Autism Projects are designed to assist in skill development of individuals with autism and provide needed training and support for families. Missouri Autism Centers help to decrease the amount of time a family may have to wait before being seen by a qualified diagnostic team when a child or student exhibits characteristics that may be consistent with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. With timely, accurate diagnoses, families, school personnel and medical personnel are better equipped to provide beneficial treatment for improved outcomes, hopefully at the earliest age possible.

The Department also anticipates having to close the 44-bed Hawthorn Children’s Psychiatric Hospital and residential care facility in St. Louis, the 32-bed Cottonwood Children’s Residential Treatment Center in Cape Girardeau, and six of the Developmental Disabilities Regional Offices around the state, including the Joplin Regional Office. This closure would make the Springfield Regional Office staff responsible for serving the eleven counties previously served by the Joplin office.

The report also raised concerns that the costs associated with House Bill 253 would make it nearly impossible to improve the facilities at Fulton State Hospital.

The full report from the Missouri Department of Mental Health can be found at here.

The Governor’s veto message on House Bill 253 is available here.

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