Press Releases: $2.2 Billion State Cuts to Mental Health Take Their Toll, Providers Testify at Congressional Briefing
Briefing materials available at www.MentalHealthcareReform.org
Media inquiries to Meena Dayak at MeenaD@thenationalcouncil.org or 301.602.8474.
Washington, DC (Feb 18, 2011)--Survey data released at a Congressional briefing on mental health budget cuts this week revealed that states have been forced to cut mental health agency budgets by a combined total of nearly $2.2 billion over the last three fiscal years, the largest reduction to mental health spending since the 1960s. Some states have been forced to make cuts equaling 20% of their total mental health spending. In the worst hit states, reductions approaching 40% are being contemplated.
The Congressional briefing was hosted by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors on Feb 16 to release the results of a nationwide survey showing cuts to public mental health services over the course of the economic recession. The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council) supported the briefing.
Many states have been forced to reduce funding for a wide array of community-based interventions including crisis services, targeted case management, prescription medications and outpatient clinics. “These services are at the heart of every public mental health system in the country…and a means of keeping people with mental illnesses out of more expensive psychiatric hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing facilities and jails,” said Kevin Martone, New Jersey’s Deputy Commissioner of Human Services and head of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, who testified at the briefing.
Craig Knoll, Executive Director of Threshold Services in Silver Spring, MD and National Council member, said at the briefing that his agency has lost more than a quarter million dollars in state support over the last several fiscal years. “There is not anything left to cut and still furnish the services we are charged with providing…. the only thing left to do is reduce the quality of our services. Decreased quality, in turn, reduces our clinical outcomes. Reduced clinical outcomes directly translate into fewer consumers maintaining stable housing, fewer people progressing from residential rehabilitation to independent living, and more people hospitalized or moved to nursing facilities. Right now, because we don’t want to abandon our consumers, Threshold Services continues serving them even though we are not getting reimbursed. If the 2012 cuts go through, we won’t be able to continue that practice.”
With the implementation of healthcare reform, some private studies indicate that an additional 2.5 million low-income persons with serious mental disorders will be served by the public mental health system in 2014. Martone explained that if we are forced to continue reducing intensive community-based services and closing psychiatric hospital beds, we will not have the necessary infrastructure, services and workforce to meet existing demands, let alone a growing demand for these very services expected with the Affordable Care Act.
“People who need mental health services 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. States that believe they are saving money now will only have to pay more later,” says Linda Rosenberg, National Council President and CEO.
Testimonies from the briefing are available on the National Council’s blog at www.MentalHealthcareReform.org. In a live chat on the blog on Feb 18, 2 – 3 pm eastern, Chuck Ingoglia, the National Council’s Vice President, Public Policy discusses proposed federal cuts to behavioral health spending and the impact on your programs and services.
The National Council is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) association of 1,800 community healthcare organizations that provide treatment and rehabilitation for mental illnesses and addictions disorders to nearly eight million adults, children and families in communities across the country. Learn more at www.TheNationalCouncil.org.