Kansas ranks ninth in the nation when it comes to reductions in state funding for mental health services.
It has cut $14.3 million between 2009 and 2012, according to a report “State Mental Health Cuts: The Continuing Crisis” released Thursday by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The 2012 state budget for mental health services is $101 million, down from $115 million in 2009, a 12.4 percent decrease.
Nationwide, there has been a $1.6 billion decrease.
South Carolina had the largest percentage decrease at 39 percent, followed by Alabama, 36, and Alaska, 32. Other states have added funding. North Dakota has seen a 48 percent increase, followed by Georgia at 21 percent.
Lawrence resident Bill Simons, 69, described the Kansas ranking as horrific. “Those cuts are starting from a poor level to begin with,” he said.
Simons said he has howled about funding cuts and the closure of mental health services for years. That’s because those services saved his life.
He estimates he was hospitalized 50 times between 1984 and 2005. He received help at Topeka State Hospital and a mental health unit at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which no longer are available.
“To think about the quality of life I have today compared to where I was then. I was almost not human in some ways. I was just a terrified, curled up animal — out of control,” he said.
Today, he’s married and sober, and he’s very concerned about people who have mental illness today.
“It’s sad. I can’t even put it into words. The inhumanity of it all,” he said by phone on Thursday. On Wednesday, he stood before 75 people and spoke against state funding cuts for mental health during a town hall meeting in downtown Lawrence.
Simons said he’s also grateful for the extensive treatment he received at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center over the years, and hopes it remains open.
Bert Nash CEO David Johnson said the center has lost about $1.5 million in funding — mostly state funding — during the past four years. He said the center is projecting a $200,000 deficit this year and about a $90,000 deficit next year.
“We’ve had to figure out how to keep our doors open and continue to serve the number of people we have and prepare for the future too,” he said.
Since spring, Bert Nash has cut 12 full- and part-time positions through attrition. Bert Nash employees also are proposing more group therapy as opposed to individual therapy when appropriate.
“We are seeing about the same number of clients but the severity of problems has increased dramatically,” he said.
Bert Nash is looking to fill the funding gaps through donations and fundraising.
“We believe that our mission is still important,” Johnson said. “In many places, they’ve stopped serving people without Medicaid. Here, what we try to do is to provide service to anybody who needs it, regardless of their payment source.”
Johnson said when people don’t get mental health treatment, they often end up in emergency rooms, homeless shelters and jails.
The national NAMI report is based on data for non-Medicaid mental health services financed by state general funds through state mental health agencies.
Rick Cagan, executive director for NAMI Kansas, said the state funding cut is $38.2 million — triple the amount — when you factor in other state funding sources such Mental Health Reform grants, Medicaid, MediKan and the Community Support Medication Program.
The NAMI report also highlights the loss by Kansas in June of $87 million in “enhanced” federal matching funds under Medicaid that were part of economic stimulus legislation.
“The tragedy of this report is that Kansas is among a group of 10 states who have the deepest percentage reductions in mental health spending,” Cagan said. “We’re leading the way to the bottom and putting our citizens at risk at a time when the need for mental health services is on the rise.”