Bottlenecks in mental health services – Part 3: Impact of state budget on treating mental illnesses

Lately, Americans have been expressing their dissatisfaction with the existing mental health system in the nation and have been demanding an increase in investments in mental health services to assist those suffering from such problems. Though some states have responded by increasing the funding for mental health services, other states have gone a step back by cutting mental health funding. As per a research, cut mental health services leads to excessive spending on homelessness, criminal justice and crisis services.

As part of the series, “Bottlenecks in mental health services,” we share with you the details of the state-wise cuts in mental health budgets and their impact on the treatment of mentally ill patients.

Various factors prevented some states from boosting mental health budget

As per the State Mental Health Agency (SMHA) budgets, states across the United States began rebuilding their mental health budgets between 2013 and 2014 that went through sweeping cuts during the recession. Mental health funding increased in only 24 states in 2015. For the past three years, states like Alaska, Wyoming and North Carolina have been decreasing their state mental health funding .

The state of North Carolina saw a modest 4 percent increase in the state mental health budget. It funded a psychiatric bed registry and 150 extra psychiatric beds in rural areas.

In the state of Florida, though the governor proposed a nearly $22 million increase in the state mental health budget, the infighting in the legislature left the state with a small increase for community mental health services.

In Alabama, the legislature managed to enact a budget that retained the spending on mental health services as was in 2014. The state of Kansas saw a 4 percent cut in its state mental health budget. The states of Ohio and Michigan largely folded mental health services into Medicaid funding.

Important investment in some states

Though budgets in some states were impacted due to political bickering, some states saw important investments made to the state mental health budgets.

The state of New York enacted a budget representing the state’s strongest investment in mental health services in many years. New Hampshire ended the session with a substantial increase in the state mental health budget. Washington has invested $700 million since the low point in 2012. The state of Minnesota also allocated $46 million to fund several new initiatives and expand access to the existing mental health services.

Funding of mental health services

In the U.S., the two largest sources of state support for mental health services are Medicaid, which is a joint federal-state program, and the state general funds that are administered by state mental health authorities.

As many people with mental illness do not qualify for Medicaid, the state general funding of mental health care serves as the last resort for children and adults living with serious mental illness in America. Medicaid does not pay for some vital mental health services such as inpatient psychiatric treatment.

Impact of state budget cuts

By receiving adequate treatment, people suffering from mental illnesses can recover and gain independence in their lives. However, lack of mental health services often leads to worsened mental conditions with adverse consequences in the form of homelessness, frequent visits to emergency rooms, hospitalizations, involvement with criminal justice systems, premature deaths and suicides.

In the early years of recession, mental health budget reductions were related to cut in the number of state office personnel and other administrative expenses. As the recession deepened, mental health budget cuts have increasingly focused on program downsizing, elimination of services and professional workforce and reduction in service eligibility.

Help at hand

To improve the mental health of Americans, it is imperative to invest in mental health services across the nation and increase the state-wise mental health care budget.

If you or someone you know is suffering from some kind of mental illness and requires assistance, contact the California Mental Health Helpline to know about various mental health treatment centers in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online with our experts to find some of the best mental health centers in California.

Read the other articles of the series, “Bottlenecks in mental health services”:

Part 1: California’s shortage of psychiatric bed impacts mental treatment

Part 2: Overcrowding ERs affecting psychiatric patients’ treatment

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