Painful budget cuts imposed on social services by state legislatures across the country are adversely impacting the mentally ill in an unprecedented manner.
What is presently happening in Massachusetts, where the state's Department of Mental Health has lost $85 million in funding within the past two years, with Governor Deval Patrick now proposing to cut an additional $20 million-plus from the department's budget, is stark evidence of that. Over Presidents Day weekend, so many people suffering symptoms of mental illness converged on South Shore hospitals that they were boarded in emergency or hospital conference rooms while they awaited placement and treatment.
"We are stockpiling patients," said state Sen. John Keenan. "It's not even treatment. We are just holding them."
Until two years ago, hospitals could have sent psychiatric patients to a state-run facility set up to handle them. Owing to a funding shortfall, though, that health center was forced to close in 2009.
Patrick's administration cites two main reasons for shutting it down, namely, to bring down costs and to begin emphasizing more community-based treatment for persons with mental illnesses. A group home as opposed to a state hospital is an example of that.
Critics are lined up. One of them, the president of a mental health care agency, calls the budget plan "a recipe for disaster."
Many persons suffering from a mental or emotional condition that precludes them from working are unaware that they might be eligible to collect Social Security Disability benefits. An experienced disability benefits attorney can answer questions concerning impairments and eligibility.
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