October 20, 2005

Budget Cuts Hurting those with Brain Disorders

Rocky mountain news, in Denver, Colorado reports that in that state the people with brain disorders are seeing serious cuts to their programs. As is usually the case this is extremly short sighted, and the people they prematurely take out of support programs may end up costing the State much more in jailing costs or other areas.

"Tryon is among the hundreds of severely mentally ill patients who got kicked out of Colorado's community mental health centers in recent years. Some, like Tryon, found other therapy. Hundreds more are unaccounted for. They could be in jail, homeless, dead or in other states.

And that, mental health advocates say, is a symptom of a cash-strapped system in shambles after years of budget cuts. It's also a system, critics say, that lacks accountability or much motivation to admit its failures.

During the past four years, the state has cut per-patient spending on mental health treatment for indigent people through Medicaid by one-third, even as the caseload went up by two-thirds. The average payments fell from $569 to $378 per Medicaid recipient per year.

State mental health funds for the working poor declined a net $5.1 million, or 25 percent, according to the Legislative Council.

At the same time, Colorado has participated in a national trend toward moving people out of mental hospitals. The average daily patient count at Fort Logan and Pueblo Mental Health Institutes has dropped 24 percent since 2000, from 708 to 539."

The paper lists some other ways in which mental health programs have been cut in recent years:

Mental health budget cuts

These are some of the ways the state has saved money on mental health services in the past four years:

* Waiting lists: Grew from 143 people seeking access to community mental health clinics in 2000-01 to 400 in 2004-05.

* Indigent patients: Hundreds were denied services because they were deemed too "healthy" for care.

* Medicaid caps: Outpatient visits were set at 35 a year, and hospitalization at 45 days.

* Tighter rules: The average daily occupancy of state mental health institutes declined 24 percent after changes made.

* Limited admittance: Mental health centers now try to treat patients in groups, not individually. They turn away clients who aren't "in crisis" - suicidal, having lost their jobs, arrested or homeless.

* More incarcerations: The number of mentally ill people in prisons has risen from 3 percent to 18 percent in the past 14 years.


Do you know why they are having budget cuts in the programs?

Posted by: Jessica Vaudrin at October 27, 2005 12:10 PM

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