Despite the prevalence of mental health issues in the United States, federal and state budget cuts have led to decreased funding for many mental health services for the people who need it the most.
Utah was one state recently in the news due to mental health service budget cuts. Over 2,000 patients were no longer assisted by the nonprofit organization Valley Mental Health. Budget cuts have meant that the agency could only keep coverage for the most severely mentally ill patients, and the other patients were transferred to other providers.
Even though the patients in Utah are luckily able to receive similar services elsewhere, many have to make major adjustments after having the same therapist or support group for years.
States like New York are trying to find solutions to the budget problem. A New York Times article reported that the state of New York currently runs a mandatory outpatient program for people with severe mental illness who are using services from the mental health care system. The article added that costs to the system and Medicaid have dropped at least by half.
The program was developed in response to Kendra’s Law, which was created after a woman named Kendra Webdale was killed when she was pushed onto subway tracks by a man with untreated schizophrenia. Patients are monitored by caseworkers who make sure they go to therapy and take medication.
Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization, states on its website that assisted outpatient treatment is a viable option in the face of state budget cuts. This type of treatment for people with mental illness helps prevent costly re-hospitalization and a cycle of arrests.
Wendy Brennan, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City (NAMI-NYC Metro) said in an email that as part of budget cuts in New York, health care funding does have to be reduced, and currently NAMI is helping with the state with the redesign of Medicaid. They are moving from a fee-for-service system to a managed care system for people with serious mental illness.