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Mental Health Care Cuts Could Create Care Crisis

by Shadra Bruce on August 3, 2010

Mental health care services around the country are being cut at a rapid pace thanks to the economic condition of the country. From California to Mississippi, from Massachusetts to Texas, mental health services are suffering from slashed state budgets. Even though the need for mental health services continues to rise, most states in the U.S. are drastically cutting their budgets for meeting the need, creating the potential for a mental health crisis in the country.

A Brandeis University study published in the International Journal of Mental Health revealed that 32 states cut their mental health budgets in 2009, and states and counties are making deeper cuts this year to combat budget crises. Programs that have been most affected by the cuts are adult inpatient and clinic services, children inpatient and clinic services, and managed services for kids.

Because states administer their own Medicaid programs, reimbursements for mental health care are also being targeted for cuts, making it less likely that those who need mental health services will have the coverage they need if they are on public medical coverage. According to the Brandeis study, 13 states have already cut Medicaid reimbursement amounts for mental health professionals while 14 states have actually eliminated certain treatments from coverage altogether.

Dominic Hodgkin, associate professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis, expresses concern over the cuts, indicating that core services will be affected in many states. “The recession poses formidable challenges for mental health services in the coming years,” said Hodgkin. “While there are encouraging signs here and there of enlightened responses from governments that recognize the value of mental health services, in most countries, spending is being cut dramatically.”

Hodgkin suggests that policymakers need to pay closer attention to mental health spending and the needs of mental health patients in order to make better policies that protect some of the most vulnerable citizens during times of economic recession.

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