When your only treatment option is jail
Unfortunately, the recession made matters much worse. Between the 2009 and 2011 fiscal years, U.S. states cut $2.2 billion from mental health programs. Half of states cut mental health services, even though 60 percent reported sharp increases in demand, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
Congress and the Obama administration are struggling to pass a budget this week to avoid a federal government shutdown. Here’s what the White House budget includes:
A $51 million increase in funding for scientific and clinical research by the National Institute of Mental Health
A freeze for most programs at the Center for Mental Health Services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, including the $420 million Mental Health Block Grant program, which funds community mental health services
In contrast, the House of Representatives proposed
A $200 million cut from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
An $86 million (or seven percent) cut from the National Institute of Mental Health
A $557 cut to special education funding
States now face a $125 billion budget deficit, and a number of governors are trying to slash their Medicaid programs (Medicaid is the largest payer for mental health care in the United States). But cutting programs doesn’t make problems go away. With severe cuts to mental health programs, we can expect to see increasing numbers of mentally ill people landing in prison or jail. Let’s not forget the steep costs of that practice — both monetary and human.