Katrina Womble has a good post reminding us that sometimes state “spending cuts” merely shift the spending onto individuals or to a different part of the government’s budget:
In an attempt to address state budget shortages, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett‘s (R) FY 2013 budget, released February 7th, proposes reducing funding for mental health services by $168 million (20 percent), with additional cuts to other critical mental health services. State officials, mental health advocates, and patients are concerned about Corbett’s proposed state budget. But the notion that this funding cut will save the state money is an illusion, as reduced access to mental health services have led to increased – and expensive – use of hospital emergency room services. Some of the mental health related cuts in Corbett’s budget include:
– $110 million reduction to Community Mental Health Services. The remaining Mental Health funds are to be put into county Human Services Development Fund Block Grant. Behavioral health funding accounts for 73 percent of the proposed block grant total, but there is no mechanism in place to guarantee that counties will spend that 73 percent on persons with mental illness.
– Cuts Intellectual Disability Community Services by $28.995 million
– An additional $12.6 million reduction to the Behavioral Health Services Initiative and the Act 152 Drug and Alcohol Program. These programs provide assessment, treatment, and case management services for individuals for individuals with mental illness and people in need of treatment for drug and/or alcohol abuse.
Unfortunately, Corbett’s proposed cuts are not unique. States across the U.S. have slashed state mental health agency budgets since FY 2009 as a result of the recession. The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) estimated that states have cut $3.4 billion in mental health funding since FY 2009, while the demand for services has increased during this time period (since FY 2009, demand for community-based services has increased by 56 percent, and the demand for emergency room, state hospital, and emergency psychiatric care has climbed 18 percent).