Advocates for the mentally ill are pleading with state lawmakers not to automatically consider budget cuts to the Mental Health Department to cope with declining state revenues.

Everyone seems acutely aware of the state of the economy, but perhaps none more than those appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee recently.

Mary Sullivan is with the Missouri Association of County Developmental Disabilities Services.

"We have recognized the difficult situation that everyone’s in with the national and state economy," Sullivan told the committee, "But (we) find it critical that we continue to support Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens."

Sullivan has urged senators to protect the health and safety of the mentally ill.

Kathy Brown represents 13 organizations as part of the Congress on Disabilities and apologizes to senators for voicing needs during difficult economic times.

"I wish that we had a shorter, short list of policy priorities," Brown said during her testimony before the committee, "The list seems sort of long, but the reality is that there are significant needs that people with disabilities have in the community."

The legislature returns to the Capitol this year. The state budget tops everyone’s priority list.

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)