Mental Health Cuts Are ‘National Crisis,’ Report Finds
Two-thirds of states slashed funding for mental health services in the last three years, a new advocacy group report indicates, threatening the safety net many with developmental disabilities rely on in crisis situations.
The report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness looked primarily at mental health services paid for through state general funds and administered by state mental health agencies rather than Medicaid. Information was gathered by examining budgets for all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2009 and 2011.
Kentucky made the most significant cuts to mental health, chopping the program’s budget by 47.5 percent, according to the NAMI report.
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Alaska, South Carolina and Arizona followed Kentucky in a ranking of states based on the percentage decrease to mental health budgets.
“State mental health cuts are a national crisis,” said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of NAMI. “Some states are trying to hold the line or make progress, but most are cutting deep.”
As a result, the advocacy organization says that people in need often turn to emergency rooms or get caught up in the court system when help is not available.
“Mental health cuts mean that clinics, crisis centers and hospitals close,” Fitzpatrick said. “Where services remain, staff is cut, wait times for appointments are stretched and when people finally are seen, it’s for shorter amounts of time.”
Bucking the trend, 17 states increased funding for mental health during the same time period, NAMI said, though most of these states saw only modest gains.