BUFFALO, N.Y.- On Friday afternoon, the country was still trying to come to grips with the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. The national conversation revolved around child advocacy and mental health.
That is why the Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Erie County says it is such a strange coincidence that on that very day is when he received word that the State was cutting funding to CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Kenneth Houseknecht says the program is a network of volunteers who provide advocacy and constant contact for at-risk, neglected and abused children and teens who are caught up in the foster system.
Erie County's chapter is one of hundreds across the country and dozens across the state. Each chapter in New York got the same news Friday. The Unified Court System provides funding through a 5 year grant. This year, Erie County received $60,000. However, the court administration is now having to deal with a $1.2 million budget cut, so CASA funding is being cut, $800,000 worth state-wide.
Houseknecht says today is a "call to arms" for anyone who cares about children. He says he will be contacting the "foundation community, corporate donors, private donors, civic and church groups." There has even been a petition to restore state funding started on their Facebook page Houseknecht says that while the funding may have been cut, the program cannot be. CASA provided help to 160 children in Erie County alone over the past year.