BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — As U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy visited Bridgeport on Monday to celebrate a new mental health law and $1 billion in funding to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic, hovering in the background were state funding cuts, President-Elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress.
Along with mental health advocates and addiction professionals, Murphy (D-Conn.) visited the Kinsella Treatment Center to meet with staff, clients and other officials a week after President Barack Obama signed into law the bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act.
"Billions of new dollars are going into mental health research, and it's been a long time since we did that," said Murphy, noting that the extra money comes at a time when the state is facing severe budget shortfalls.
"The state is going to have a really rough go of it in 2017. They've got another billion-dollar deficit, and I know that you guys have taken cuts here in the provider community," he said. "This emergency funding coming from the federal government is coming at the right time."
Not everything Murphy wanted was included in the bill, but he pointed to his success in reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans.
Murphy also acknowledged that there are questions about Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will do on these issues in the coming years.
Among those crowded around the table was Mary Ellen McGuire, executive director of Bridge House in Bridgeport, which helps adults with persistent mental illnesses. She said she was optimistic about the future of mental health services with the new law.
"We've come a long way. We have a long way to, go but we have come a long way," McGuire said. "One in five adults will suffer mental illness in their lifetime, so we need to make a lot more progress in our communities to treat this."