NAMI: National Crisis for Mental Health Services

March 31, 2011 | By Liza Casabona | Post a Comment

A new report warns that cuts in state funding in recent years and the looming threat of additional trimming at the federal and state levels is creating “a national crisis” around the provision of mental health services.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness report found that from 2009 to 2011, non-Medicaid public mental health spending was cut by $1.8 billion. Even deeper cuts are expected in 2011 and 2012 as federal and state appropriators grapple with painful economic constraints and budget challenges.

According to NAMI, one in 17 people in the U.S. is living with a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder, major depression or schizophrenia, and approximately one out of every 10 children lives with a serious mental illness.

NAMI noted that because the population using mental health services hasn’t decreased in proportion with funding reductions, cutting services increases the financial burden on the emergency rooms, community hospitals, law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities and homeless shelters that must pick up the slack.

Some states cut significantly more of their funds for mental health services than others. The largest cuts, as a percentage of a state’s general fund budget for mental health, were 47 percent in Kentucky, 35 percent in Alaska and 23 percent in South Carolina and Arizona.

The NAMI report notes that although $87 billion of additional federal funds were put into state Medicaid programs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, those funds will dry up in June. It remains to be seen how states will cope with any additional loss of funds, while even more cuts to mental health and other optional Medicaid services may be just around the corner.

How have cuts to mental health services impacted your community? How are local organizations preparing to pick up the slack if additional cuts go through?

Subscribers to Local/State Funding Report can find more in depth coverage of the NAMI report in the April 4 issue.

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