AP: Mental Health Tax Check-Off

NYAPRS Note: The Associated Press has now reported what we recently shared, that Governor Cuomo signed the Mental Health Tax Check-Off Bill into law. This new legislation allows New Yorkers to donate a portion (or all) of their tax returns to the newly created Mental Illness Anti-Stigma Fund.

Our friend and partner at MHANYS, Glenn Liebman, worked tirelessly to see this measure come to fruition. He said, “One in four people in New York and the nation suffer with mental illness and the worst part of the illness is the mythology that people with mental illness are violent and crazy. Two out of every three people who need mental health services never seek these services for fear of being labeled as crazy or psychotic. This has to change.”

On a significant and related note, the Governor signed legislation last week that ensures money accrued by all tax check-offs must be spent in that fiscal year on those specified causes.

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York taxpayers will have the option of contributing to 13 causes next year that will include educational efforts to prevent women's cancers and against the stigma of mental illness.

At the same time, another new state law will generally require spending contributions in the fiscal year they're collected, meant to stop leaving millions of donated dollars languishing as the state comptroller found in a report almost two years ago.

"New Yorkers are generously giving to causes they care about, but the money is piling up in some funds," said Assemblyman Herman "Denny" Farrell Jr., Ways and Means Committee chairman, in his sponsor's memo. That's more than $50 million donated since the first check-off fund was established in 1982, while auditors reported more than $14 million went unspent for years.

While the measures were signed only last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, tax department spokesman Geoffrey Gloak said the 2015 income tax forms appearing in January will include the two new causes affecting millions of people.

"One in four people in New York and the nation suffer with mental illness and the worst part of the illness is the mythology that people with mental illness are violent and crazy," said Glenn Liebman, chief executive of the Mental Health Association of New York State. "Two out of every three people who need mental health services never seek these services for fear of being labeled as crazy or psychotic. This has to change."

The new cancer fund is for education and prevention of cervical, endometrial, gestational trophoblastic tumor, ovarian, uterine sarcoma, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.

Contributions already support wildlife management, Lake Placid Olympic Training Center, breast cancer research, homeless veterans, missing children, Alzheimer's disease, prostate cancer programs, World Trade Center memorials, volunteer firefighter recruitment, teen health education and veterans' cemeteries.

The spending law requires new annual spending reports, while specifying "to the extent practicable" each state agency administering a fund ensures spending all money in the year it's collected. Similar provisions already applied to the breast cancer and firefighters funds. Both accumulated balances anyway.

The Prostate Cancer Fund, created in 2004, was faulted for spending none of nearly $2.9 million, donations plus matching state grants, that, by law, was to go to the New York State Coalition to Cure Prostate Cancer. That nonprofit, based in Santa Monica, California, filed only one 2006 report and lost its exemption in 2011, according to New York's attorney general.

Lawmakers in 2014 renamed it the Prostate and Testicular Cancer Research and Education Fund and removed the reference in the law to the coalition.

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