“We are seeing some good things,” said Debbie Plotnick, the senior director of state policy at the advocacy group Mental Health America. “But we’re also seeing some bad things.”
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback wants to put another $10 million into mental health services for at-risk patients who can’t get services through Medicaid. In Pennsylvania, where the current state budget cuts 10 percent from community mental health services, the Republican chair of the House of Representatives Human Services Committee, state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, will offer legislation to restore the funding.
“Properly funded treatment for mental illness and addiction is not a luxury,” DiGirolamo said recently.
In South Carolina, where the state mental health budget has shrunk by $74 million since 2009, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley is calling for an $11 million increase for the state’s beleaguered mental health agency.
After a recent legislative hearing on the proposal, Lindsey liked what he’d heard from lawmakers: “It looks like they’re at least going to do that much, but we won’t know for sure until June,” when the budget is finalized. “But so far, so good.”
In Mississippi, however, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant wants to cut $1.7 million from the mental health agency budget, while the Republican-led legislature wants to cut nearly $6 million from the department, which already has absorbed $27 million in cuts since 2009.
“From our perspective, there’s already a shortage of treatment in the state as it is, and if we keep cutting, then it just makes it harder and harder,” said Kay Daneault, the executive director of the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi.
Patient advocates in California, where the state mental health budget has shrunk by nearly $765 million since 2009, were troubled when Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t mention the Newtown shootings or call for more mental health spending in recent speeches.
“He didn’t say a word about it in his State of the State speech,” said Rusty Selix, the executive director of Mental Health America of California. “He didn’t say a word about it in his speech introducing the budget. Not a word. That’s pretty revealing.”
Luis Vizcaino, a spokesman for the state Health and Human Services Agency, said Brown’s budget proposal called for no further cuts in mental health services. He defended the governor, saying Brown’s State of the State speech discussed implementing the Affordable Care Act, which includes mental health services.
After several years of decline, increases are expected this year in tax revenue from Proposition 63, a 1 percent tax on wealthy Californians that helps fund state mental health services. A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 55 percent of Californians supported the governor’s focus on paying down the state’s debt, while 38 percent preferred more spending on social services
In Idaho, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is backing plans to have the Department of Correction build a $70 million hospital to house nearly 600 mentally ill prisoners, along with non-offenders who’ve been involuntarily committed by the courts.
But Dr. Jeff Wright, the president of the Mental Health Providers Association of Idaho, said the state had enough hospital beds and should try to rebuild the network of residential, partial care and day treatment services for the mentally ill, which was decimated by budget cuts. Idaho has cut 18 percent of its mental health budget since 2009.
“If we had proper community-based services, (patients) wouldn’t need to go to a facility,” Wright said. “They could go to a day treatment center and then go home at night. Instead we’re going to put them in a facility where it costs astronomically more to care for them.”