The National Alliance on Mental Illness ("NAMI") - a national non-profit mental health support and advocacy organization - reported last week that New York was near the top of the list of states that most reduced their mental health funding between 2009 and 2011. California, Kentucky and Illinois round out the top four.
NAMI obviously does not consider that a badge of honor, noting that the drastic cuts seen in state funding for the treatment of mental illness starkly undercut necessary access to critical services for people in society who are among the most unprotected and vulnerable. NAMI estimates that, collectively, all the 50 states have diminished their mental health care spending by close to $2 billion since 2009.
The organization maintains that the adverse effects of that simply cannot be overstated. State administrators and legislators engage in tunnel-vision thinking when they view that such cost cutting yields savings for taxpayers, says NAMI Illinois executive director Lora Thomas.
The result, she says, is precisely the opposite, because people who no longer have scheduled and ongoing treatment available for mental illness quite often end up in settings that cost an inordinate amount of money, such as jails and prisons, homeless shelters and medical emergency rooms. "We need to be educated and smart enough to realize that costs don't diminish in any way when we reduce treatment," Thomas says.
The NAMI report predicts progressively deeper funding cuts for mental health programs across the country over the next two years.
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