Washington, D.C. — The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) described massive state budget cuts in mental healthcare as a national crisis in a Congressional briefing today sponsored by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD).
NAMI is also preparing a comprehensive report on the national mental health crisis. At the briefing, NAMI focused only on the cuts in Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington.
Lt. Col. (ret.) James Walsh, President of NAMI Alabama spoke for the national organization, describing an approximately 32 percent reduction in mental health funding in Alabama from FY 2008 to levels proposed in 2011—from $143.9 million to $98 million.
Based on this year's projections, community mental health centers across Alabama could lose 1,700 personnel and 20,000 individuals living with severe mental illness would lose access to mental health services.
"These cuts are reducing front-line clinical staff, restricting eligibility for services, closing facilities and crippling county and municipal programs as well as services contracted to nonprofit providers," Walsh declared.
"These programs are very often the last resort for under-insured and uninsured children and adults living with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. For many ... there is nowhere else to turn."
"Nationally, this is compounded by high levels of unemployment and lost health care benefits as well as the men and women returning to our communities from extended combat tours—especially those in the National Guard—with very high incidence of serious depression, PTSD and family dissolution. Not to mention 194,000 homeless veterans already."
Among other examples, Kansas has cut $20 million since 2008. The governor has proposed an additional $15.2 million in cuts this year. Ohio cut mental health spending 36.2 percent between 2008 and 2010—a total of $191.3 million.
Rhode Island cut 34 percent of mental health spending between 2007 and 2009, contributing to a 65 percent increase in the number of children with mental illnesses being boarded in public hospital emergency rooms, with no place to go for treatment.
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