Advocates Unite to Protest Cuts to General Fund Budget for Mental Health

Advocates unite at the Capitol to call for the legislature to restore cuts to the General Fund budget. The Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, The Michgian Mental Health Association, NAMI Michigan, the Children's Mental Health Association, Michigan Protection and Advocacy, The Michigan Psychiatric Association and others joined together today to protest cuts to the general fund budget for individuals not eligible for Medicaid.

Statement of Mark Reinstein, Mental Health Assn. in Mich.
Mental Health Budget Issues Press Conference, Aug. 18, 2009

 
For the past decade, Michigan has been moving toward a two-tiered system in publicly funded mental health care.  To take advantage of enhanced federal funding opportunities, we have split Community Mental Health (CMH) treatment money into two lines: one for Medicaid and the other for non-Medicaid, with the Medicaid line getting the lion’s share of the appropriations.  This occurs despite the facts that: (1) Michigan’s Mental Health Code holds out the promise of publicly funded safety net services regardless of a consumer’s reimbursement resources; and (2) at any given window in time, roughly half the statewide CMH service population is not eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.

Now we stand on the brink of telling those people that they don’t count at all; that their pain and suffering means nothing; and they can all go to hell.  The CMH non-Medicaid line stood at a less-than-adequate $322 million to begin FY-09.  The Governor would cut that by at least $40 million for FY-10; the Senate would cut it by $60 million; and the House Republicans say in a report that we can even cut more.

Reductions of such magnitude are exactly the opposite of what the Governor’s Mental Health Commission called for in 2004 to remedy our two-tiered mental health system.  They are penny-wise and pound-foolish; cruel and inhumane; and an open invitation to increased psychiatric hospitalizations, homelessness, emergency room visits and justice system involvement.  So, too, is the Governor’s misguided recommendation for an alleged, undocumented “savings” of $6.9 million through a proposed repeal of 2004 state law that protects mental health drugs from access restrictions in the Medicaid program.

 
Yes, times are bad in Michigan.  But it is precisely those times that are causing more and more mental health problems among our population.  And it is those times which have resulted in the federal stimulus bill giving Michigan more than $2 billion additional Medicaid money over a 2-year period.  That creates hundreds of million dollars of Medicaid match savings for Michigan, yet our leaders want to use much of that money to plug other holes in the budget.  These funds should be used first and foremost to fill gaps in health care, including mental health.

I have personally experienced mental illness.  What I confronted would not even be considered the “severe and persistent mental illness” that we expect Community Mental Health to deal with, yet it was the blackest, most painful and most frightening experience of my life.  To turn our backs on the most vulnerable among us would be unconscionable and barbaric, and will cost all of us more in the long run.  This is a time for our elected leaders to be statesmen, not run-of-the-mill politicians.  Will anyone step forward to answer the call?

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