Press Releases: Mental Health Hit Hard By State Budget Cuts
Mental Health Services Lose $670 Million
Contact: Communications@thenationalcouncil.org or 202.684.3728
Washington, DC, October 1, 2009 — State budget cuts are forcing community mental health centers nationwide to eliminate programs, ration care and treat some patients only when their conditions reach the crisis-intervention stage, according to a survey of behavioral healthcare organizations conducted by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council).
“At a time when the mental health safety net is most needed, the budget cuts are removing it,” said Michael Vizena, executive director of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, whose members this year have seen a 10 to 30 percent increase in demand for services. “Without treatment, many of these people will end up in emergency rooms, homeless or in the criminal justice system — all of which will cost taxpayers more in the long run.”
The survey finds that state budget cuts this year to mental health services total $670 million. Some states report cuts of at least $25 million, a 34 percent reduction from last year.
“This is a very desperate time,” said Vic DiGravio, president and CEO of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Corporations of Massachusetts (MHSACM). “These cuts have left a huge gap in the continuum of care for people as we’re being forced to entirely eliminate some rehabilitation, employment and education services.”
Budget cuts in Massachusetts this year led to the discharge of 200 patients from state-run, in-patient facilities into community-based programs primarily run by MHSACM members.
Many other states are encountering similar difficulties. New Jersey is phasing out many programs and/or sites while Tennessee, California, Vermont and Kentucky are establishing waiting lists and reducing services.
“I’m hearing a lot of pain from providers who cannot provide the treatment that they’re capable of and that people need,” said Ann Christian, CEO of the Washington Community Mental Health Council in Seattle. “They (providers) simply don’t have the money to do what they normally do, so people are having difficulty even getting in the front door.”
Community mental health organizations are bracing for even deeper budget cuts next fiscal year.
Vizena said that while some legislative proposals have been as much as a $150M reduction for community mental health services next fiscal year, he expects cuts to be closer to $40M, a 12% reduction. At the same time, his members are reporting a 10-30 percent increase in demand for services.
“As we look at deeper cuts going forward, the behavioral health safety net will begin to fall apart,” said Christian.
The National Council is working with other mental health organizations on a campaign to encourage legislators to provide more funding for behavioral healthcare groups. National Council members are sending letters and emails to their legislators and visiting Capitol Hill asking for support of community mental health and addictions treatment.
“Access to critical treatment and support services is being reduced while demand is increasing. Consumers do not magically disappear when funding is cut. Withdrawing community-based supports for some of the most vulnerable people in American society typically results in tragic and costly outcomes,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council.
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) association of 1,700 behavioral healthcare organizations that provide treatment and rehabilitation for mental illnesses and addictions disorders to nearly six million adults, children and families in communities across the country. The National Council and its members bear testimony to the fact that medical, social, psychological, and rehabilitation services offered in community settings help people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders recover and lead productive lives.