Kansas ranks seventh for its budget cuts to mental health programs
- on March 9, 2011
Kansas ranks seventh in the nation when it comes to cutting state funding for mental health programs.
Its spending went from $115 million in 2009 to $97 million in 2011, a 16-percent decrease.
The data was released Wednesday in a 13-page report, “State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis” by the National Association of Mental Illness.
Kansas is among 34 states that have cut a total $1.8 billion, despite the need for mental health services increasing because of economic distress and troops returning home from war.
“Budget cuts mean people don’t get the right help in the right place at the right time,” said Rick Cagan, executive director of NAMI Kansas. “Local communities suffer and families break under the strain.”
With appropriate services, people living with mental illness can and do recover. Without services, they often end up in hospital emergency rooms, homeless, jail or dead, mental health advocates say.
Lawrence’s Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, which serves 5,600 Douglas County residents annually, has lost more than $1.1 million during the past several years.
In state fiscal year 2010, Bert Nash lost $565,000, which resulted in cutting a program that helps people transition from a hospital into the community. It also cut funding for a housing assistance program.
Over the years, it has reduced community outreach and staff.
Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed cutting $15 million in funding to community mental health centers in 2012. CEO David Johnson estimates that will cost Bert Nash another $372,000.
“Cutting mental health is penny-wise and pound-foolish,” Cagan said. “Costs get shifted to emergency rooms, schools, police, local courts, jails and prisons. The taxpayer still gets the bill and it often costs more.”
On average, it costs:
• $428 per day in a state psychiatric hospital.
• $80 per day at Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility.
• $15 per day at a community health center.
In Kansas, the number of people served in state hospitals rose from 3,595 in 2007 to 4,058 in 2009, a 13-percent increase.
The hospitals have often been full or over capacity. Twice last year the state shut off voluntary admissions to the hospitals. Despite increased demand, the state closed 14 of 50 beds at Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City, Kan.
“We have been lucky to avert any unfortunate instances or occurrences of things in our local communities. But I think it’s just a matter of time because of reduced access to service because of funding cuts,” said Mike Hammond, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.
“We are hopeful that this report will weigh heavy on the minds of policymakers.”
In response to the ranking, Gov. Sam Brownback's spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said, "Over the last decade, Kansas lost private sector jobs. That's why our top priority has to be to restore economic growth while creating new private sector jobs. Once that happens, there will be more resources available for every priority of state government. With a nearly $500 million budget deficit in fiscal year 2012, our state faces very difficult decisions on how to best meet our increasing financial obligations while ensuring the needs of our most vulnerable Kansans are met."
Here are the best and worst states when it comes to funding cuts to mental health programs in 2011, according to the NAMI report. The percent is how much has been cut since 2009.
- Kentucky — $214 million, down 48 percent.
- Alaska — $89 million, down 35 percent.
- South Carolina — $138 million, down 23 percent.
- Arizona — $369 million, down 23 percent.
- Wisconsin — $371 million, down 22 percent.
- Nevada — $187 million, down 17 percent.
- Kansas — $97 million, down 16 percent.
- California — $3 billion, down 16 percent.
- Illinois — $639 million, down 15 percent.
- Mississippi — $224 million, 15 percent.
- Missouri — $467 million, up 3.7 percent.
- Nebraska — $113 million, up 3.9 percent.
- South Dakota — $47.2 million, up 4 percent.
- North Dakota — $67 million, up 4 percent.
- Maine — $212 million, up 5 percent.
- Arkansas — $76 million, up 6 percent.
- West Virginia — $152 million, up 7 percent.
- Rhode Island — $91 million, up 7 percent.
- North Carolina — $338 million, up 21 percent.
- Oregon — $377 million, up 23 percent.