P.S. I Love You Day opens door for mental health conversation, expanded initiatives – Saratogian

Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (Photo provided)

This past Friday, Feb. 9, P.S. I Love You Day celebrated its 14th anniversary in more than 100 communities across New York state.

Jaimie and Brooke DiPalma, along with their family, established P.S. I Love You Day in 2010 to commemorate the memory of their father and all individuals lost to suicide in New York. The inspiration for this meaningful day stems from the last three words spoken by their father, “I Love You.”

A former New York Police Department officer, ex-chief of the West Islip Fire Department, and president of his local chamber of commerce, Joseph DiPalma, Jr. was an active, dedicated and respected member of his community. As Joseph dropped his 14-year-old daughter Brooke off to school, he said, “I love you.” Just a few hours later, Brooke was pulled from her class and learned that her father had committed suicide.

Following the devastating loss of her father, Brooke started a club at her school to combat bullying and raise awareness for suicide prevention. What started as a small group in one school has now spread to more than 225 participating schools across the state, including the Galway Central School District and the Broadalbin-Perth Junior/Senior High School in the 112th Assembly District.

While strides have been made in improving mental health awareness in our state and across the nation, thanks to people such as the DiPalma family, there remains a significant journey ahead to confront the profound mental health challenges experienced by our children, students, siblings, friends, parents and community members — often without the necessary support or resources.

There is an urgent need to amplify efforts at the local, state and national levels to help those grappling with mental health issues, and in many cases, it’s a life-or-death consideration.

I am pleased to see additional resources for mental health proposed in this year’s executive state budget, including:

• Expanding the capacity to care for people with mental illness by funding an additional 200 new psychiatric inpatient beds;

• Increasing psychiatric rehabilitation services at the Office of Mental Health by more than $5 million;

• Investing $24.1 million more than last year for emergency mental health programs operated by local governments;

• Appropriating $2 million in new funds for veterans, first responders and disaster response workers for suicide prevention and mental health services;

• Adding a substantial $123.3 million for community mental health residential programs and injecting $6.7 million more than last year for community mental health emergency programs;

• Increasing children and family community mental health services by $12.4 million more than last year;

• And utilizing $95 million more than last year for acquisition, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation and improvements of state facilities.

Moreover, as a member of the Assembly Education and Mental Health committees, I am actively engaged in addressing the issue of bullying in schools. As a parent, I understand the profound impact bullying can have, especially when the revelation comes years later. If your child experienced bullying in school, wouldn’t you want to be informed?

My sponsored legislation, Jacobe’s Law (A.2231), would help protect our kids against bullying by notifying parents when it occurs in school. Despite this bill being held in committee, my commitment to advocating for our children remains strong. Addressing this gap in state law is a priority that cannot be deferred any longer.

I stand by the DiPalma family and all those who advocate for the mental health of those we love, including ourselves.

To learn more about P.S. I Love You Day, please visit https://psiloveyouday.net/

Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh represents the 112th Assembly District, which consists of parts of Saratoga, Schenectady and Fulton counties.

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