Photo courtesy of Glenn Barker
When Governor Murphy first announced a proposed budget cut in late August, it appeared that School Based would become another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. But School Based directors and community supporters from around the state came together to protest and organize outreach to legislators and journalists. These advocates got in touch with so many New Jersey legislators that the money for the program has been restored.
After protests in Trenton, tons of letters to legislators and finally getting a hold of the governor, School Based directors were informed that the program can expect to regain the funding for at least this school year (2020-2021).
During the state budget proposal, in late August, Governor Murphy had decided to cut the School Based program –which has provided therapy and support to students for decades–and to make the cut effective September 30.
Murphy, along with the Department of Children and Family Services, made a claim that the program it administers “may have outlived its usefulness,” and wanted to reallocate the funding to Perform Care, a short-term network of mental health treatment.
Perform Care, although reportedly a good program for people in need, would only have been free to students for a certain amount of time. At Perform Care, each client is given a case worker, who then finds the person a therapist. The therapist decides after a period of time if the person is still in need, but can only continue treatment a few times, and too often, will discontinue a service a youth is still enjoying because they are deemed to no longer need the service.
Perform Care is a large program that would have counselors students have never met before, while School Based is a small program with which students are familiar and have prior connections with the counselors. While a switch to Perform Care would still have provided some therapy and assistance, it would have taken away the personal connections students make and would have been much harder to join and get help.
The thought of students not being able to go to School Based anymore alarmed parents, teachers and students all across New Jersey.
“People began protesting. There was one student-organized rally in Trenton that really got attention,” said Jeffrey Greenfield, the Director of School Based at Warren Hills Regional High School and Middle School. “Other directors and experienced advocates began telling these people who to write to and what to say to them, in order to get the governor’s attention and bring back School Based.”
According to a Sept. 30 report by The Asbury Park Press reporter, Amanda Oglesby, “Murphy’s $32.7 billion state budget, signed Sept 29, provides $15 million to the Department of Children and Families’ Office of School Linked Services.”
Greenfield said that although the funding has returned, some of his staff have moved on or are moving on to other opportunities. Most counselors, however, will remain to “get the place rolling again,” but even he will be moving on once his successor is ready to take over.
“School Based will remain a program at Warren Hills and other New Jersey schools,” said Greenfield. “I’m thrilled they restored the program and hope School Based has a future beyond this school year.”