My admiration for New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
I guess my admiration for New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is pretty well known by now. The guy really works at his job and we are fortunate to have a consistent DiNapoli looking over New York’s finances. The fact that he has been around all these years serves us all well. He started out in the state legislature and when he was chosen as comptroller, some people didn’t think he could do the tough job he was chosen for. They couldn’t have been more wrong. It turns out that DiNapoli has done a superb job. People know and respect this guy. There was a recent political juncture at which people were calling me and suggesting that DiNapoli ought to be the next New York governor. I don’t know about you, but I think that having him continue in the job he does so well is good for all of us. That doesn’t mean that DiNapoli shouldn’t aspire to the top job, but his steady eye on the state’s finances counts for a lot.
DiNapoli is now taking the lead in one of the most pressing and important agenda items confronting our society. He is demanding that more be done to provide mental health training for school staff. We know how critical this campaign is. One needs to look no further than the most recent school shooting. There are just too many guns within the reach of the people who would kill our kids. I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know. But as each of these terrible mass shootings happen, we keep coming back to guns and mental health.
Mental health is a crisis in this country. Virtually every time we see one of these shootings, the perpetrator is described as mentally ill. It makes a lot of sense, therefore, to devote more resources to helping with this problem. We do know that there are not enough mental health professionals, including school social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and teachers trained to spot mental health issues. That means that we really can’t address the problem until we have the resources needed to plug the gap in our response time. As always, money becomes imperative so we ask ourselves what the price of a single life might be.
Dealing with our kids’ mental health has always been tricky. There is no easy fix when a teacher or social worker suspects a problem with a troubled youth. It just takes one kid to pick up a parent’s gun or buy one on the black market and in a few seconds, multiple people are lying dead on the ground. Then we are told that the shooter had mental health problems. We have thousands of mental health professionals who rely on various therapy modalities to help people in need, yet these horrific tragedies continue to happen. Let’s face it — we are confronted with an impossible set of social circumstances. Time after time, we face the consequences of having a society filled with psychiatrically compromised individuals. We can’t really identify all of them and things are getting worse and worse.
Tom DiNapoli has to oversee the finances of a state bureaucracy that includes police and prosecutorial agencies. There will always be agencies and individuals who demand money and resources but who are underequipped when it comes to delivering. That’s why we need and, I believe, have an excellent state comptroller with a sharp pencil.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].