In the budget cutting fervor that has gripped the U.S., what exactly is the toll on mental health? About $1.6 billion, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The NAMI report covers the fiscal years 2009 to 2012.
States with the heftiest cuts are South Carolina (39.3%); Alabama (36%); Alaska (32.6%); Illinois (31.7%); Nevada (28.1%); the District of Columbia, 23.9%); California, 21.2%); Idaho (17.9%); Kansas (12.4%); and Mississippi (10.4%)
“People with life-threatening mental illness are being abandoned,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, NAMI executive director.
As a result of Medicaid and state cuts for mental health services, more patients are turning to emergency rooms for care, a report earlier this year by National Public Radio said. Perhaps most surprising: Ten percent of Emergency room administrators said they had boarded patients for a week or more.
The real crunch may come in 2014, when the federal government mandates massive expansion of state Medicaid programs in connection with the Affordable Health Care Act. About 32 million Americans are expected to be added to Medicaid roles, according to Katherine Nordal, executive director of the Practice Directorate at the American Psychological Association.
With Medicaid budgets getting slashed, and more people added to the rolls at the same time, the president and new Congress will have tough decisions to make after the 2012 elections.
Still, the APA is encouraging clinical psychologists to make themselves available for Medicaid work, Nordal said in a recent interview. Read the complete interview with Nordal, on Medicaid, Medicare and other topics, in an upcoming issue of Psychotherapy Finances.
- John Nelander, Contributing Editor