National Depression Screening Day: State mental health cuts

National Depression Screening Day: State mental health cuts

It is no secret that funding for mental health services in the United States has been decreasing for years. Psychiatric hospitals have been closed and those in need of mental health services must find help in “the community.” For those with severe mental health problems “the community” often means jail, prison or living on the streets.

Florida Today, a Broward County newspaper, reported in an editorial that the following are proposed or already in effect:


  • Funding for adults with mental illness cut by 60 percent
  • Releasing patients from Florida state psychiatric hospitals with no planned housing arrangements
  • Eliminating all after-crisis care, including medications, for patients hospitalized under the Baker Act (also known as the Florida mental health act)

The Treatment Advocacy Center listed Florida 49th out of 50 states in mental health funding. Nicole Fisher writes in the Forbes article “Mental Health Loses Funding As Government Continues Shutdown” that societal stigma and lack of access to behavioral and mental health services prevents people from receiving care. She states that nationwide budget cuts contribute to the lack of access to mental health resources.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that emergency rooms, homeless shelters and jails are housing people with mental illness who have not received the help they need. From 2009 to 2011, combined state mental health budget cuts added up to $4 billion, the biggest decrease in mental health funding since the 1970s.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) cut $168 million of its spending in 2013 that included an $83.1 million reduction in grants for substance abuse treatment programs.

Debbie Plotnick, senior director of state policy of Mental Health America (MHA) said that the most important thing that happened in 2014 was that 27 states plus D.C. expanded Medicaid eligibility. Subsequently, low income single people became eligible, which allowed the enrollment of 7.5 million people into Medicaid, which provides access to mental health services.

According to the Huffington Post, some states have made very large cuts in mental health services. California’s budget in 2012 was $2.8 billion, down an astonishing $760 million from the budget for 2009. In South Carolina from 2009 to 2012 finding was cut by 39 percent, Alabama made a 36 percent cut and funds in Alaska and Illinois were cut by 30 percent according to NAMI.

According to the Huffington Post, Tom Dart, a sheriff in Cook County, Illinois, said in May, 2011that he was contemplating filing a lawsuit against the state because so many mentally ill people were ending up in jail rather than receiving needed treatment. Dart said, “When these institutions close, the seriously ill patients end up on the street with no support systems to keep them stable or medicated.”

Those diagnosed with a mental health condition can find and receive the help they need. Treatment centers offer therapy and other modalities of treatment to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health ailments. For more information about mental health services, please call the Florida Depression Helpline at any time.



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