States Cut Billions In Mental Health Funding

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Although one in 17 people in America lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder, two-thirds of state health plans have cut funding for mental health care during the past three years, according to an analysis conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The cuts, which equal around $1.8 billion, amount to about 40% of total spending for mental health services.

And the situation is likely to get worse, says the advocacy and research group based in Arlington, Virginia.

The NAMI report only addresses non-Medicaid services, so the number of patients without access to services is likely higher than reported. State Medicaid plans are also slashing budgets, including mental health services, in an effort to cut costs. NAMI notes that the temporary increase in federal funding of Medicaid through the stimulus package will end on June 20, 2011.

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The states making the deepest cuts include Kentucky (47.5%), Alaska (35.0%), South Carolina (22.7%) and Arizona (22.7%). Only 17 states have actually increased mental health care funding, but for 10 of them, the increases were 4% or less.

Vital services cut include community- and hospital-based psychiatric care, inpatient housing and access to medications for tens of thousands of adults and children living with serious mental illnesses. "On any given day, half the people with serious mental illness in this country receive no treatment," says Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of the alliance.

"Cutting mental health means that costs only get shifted to emergency rooms, schools, police, local courts, jails and prisons," said Fitzpatrick. "The taxpayer still pays the bill."

Source: "State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis", a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness

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