Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D, I, WF-Forestburgh, has been named chair of the Assembly’s Mental Health Committee.
“This comes at a critical time for mental health services in our state and nation,” said Gunther. “Right now, there is an acute awareness of how important access to treatment is for people suffering from mental illness and their families. As the only nurse in the New York State Assembly, I have a unique perspective on these issues. I’m looking forward to using my background and experience to eliminate the stigma of mental illness and pass meaningful legislation.”
Mental health issues have drawn more attention in New York and nationally over the past year, in the wake of a number of horrific and highly publicized crimes believed to have been committed by mentally ill people, ranging from assaults on police officers and people pushed in front of subways in New York City to the shooting at the courthouse in Middletown to the recent school shooting in Connecticut.
For more than a year, Gunther has been pushing legislation to strengthen and expand New York’s involuntary treatment law; Felix Ortiz, the committee’s previous chair, had been wary of this bill. Some, but not all, of her proposals were included in the gun-control legislation that passed earlier this month. Gunther voted against this bill, unhappy with some of the gun-control provisions.
Gunther also chairs the subcommittee on Women’s Health, and is on the Agriculture, Health, Environmental Conservation, and Racing and Wagering, Tourism, Arts and Sports Development committees.