Second Thoughts about Mental Health Budget Cuts
(Jan. 29, 2013) States that slashed mental health spending during the recession are having second thoughts about the cuts after last year’s shooting rampages associated with mental illness, according to an Associated Press report by Thomas Beaumont (“After shootings, states rethink mental health cuts” Jan. 23).
Between 2009 and 2011, cash-strapped states stripped more than $1.8 billion from their budgets for mental health services, two-thirds of which came from services for people with mental illness.
“In many states, lawmakers have begun to recognize that their cuts ‘may have gone too deep,’ said Shelley Chandler, executive director of the Iowa Alliance of Community Providers. "'People start talking when there is a crisis.’”
Now Jon Thompson, spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, says “many budget cutting governors are having second thoughts, including whether to reform mental health policies ‘to further invest in the safety of their citizens.’” States rethinking their mental health cuts include South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah and Kansas, according to the AP report.
“The sudden pause reflects anxiety from last year's shootings in a Colorado movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school,” Beaumont writes. “Although little is known about the mental health of either gunman, the attacks have shaken state legislatures that until recently didn't intend to consider more social spending. In some cases, gun-rights advocates are seeking mental health reforms as an alternative to more gun laws.”
As legislators take a second look – while keeping an eye on their budgets – treatment advocates should be reminding them of the role assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) can play.
We have always said AOT is a cost-effective alternative to the consequences of non-treatment (homelessness, arrest, incarceration, hospitalization, violence, suicide and more). Now a new study has found that states can implement AOT without new funding if they already provide mental health services.
Share our new backgrounder on cost savings from AOT with legislators and local mental health officials whenever you advocate for AOT.
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