NAMI Report Says State Cuts Will Hurt Mental Health Patients

The Associated Press is reporting that a new study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) concludes that state cuts to mental health services are having a serious impact on access to care.

The cuts have come in the form of state general funds, as well as Medicaid.  According to NAMI’s report, almost $1.7 billion has been cut from 28 state budgets and the District of Columbia since 2009.

In the other states, there have been some increases in funding for mental health services, but the real danger across the country is in Medicaid cuts, the nation’s largest payer for mental health care.  The expiration of federal Medicaid stimulus dollars has resulted in a shifting of state funds to try and make up the difference, at the expense of other state-funded mental health programs.

The practical effect on the day-to-day lives of low income persons living with mental illness is that these cuts are coming at a time of increased demand for services.  Emergency rooms across the country are seeing an uptick in persons seeking mental health services.  Supportive housing and crisis intervention programs have been cut or eliminated in some states.  Others have cut short and long-term hospital mental health treatment programs.

California, Illinois and New York account for $1.2 billion ($95.2 million in New York) in cuts to state mental health budgets.  New York’s spending on mental health services has been trending down for several years and includes steep decreases in state operations, cost of living deferrals,  across-the-board reductions in local assistance and clinic restructuring.

On top of New York’s diminishing resources for mental health services comes a great uncertainty as the state moves persons with mental illness into Medicaid managed care over the next three years and as it creates a new system of care delivery through the creation of health homes and behavioral health organizations.  The impact of these changes on mental health treatment, case management and supportive services is still unknown.

You can read the AP story here and find the NAMI report here.

-Jaime Venditti, 11/10/11