Entries in Budget Cuts (2)


Budget Cuts Threaten Mental Health Services

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the U.S. economy in crisis, health care budget cuts are rampant and mental health services are suffering.

In March, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), released a report detailing the tremendous state cuts to mental health care for children and adults.  However, by June more cuts were underway, and NAMI has now released an updated report looking at the continuing crisis through 2012.

“[At the time of our last report], states were just starting to work on their budgets.  We wanted to assess what they were doing in terms of continued cuts, and give people on the ground information that they might be able to use to advocate for no further cuts when legislatures start to convene in January [of 2012],” said Ronald Honberg, director of legal and policy affairs for NAMI.

NAMI’s new report focuses on individual state allocations for mental health services such as community centers, access to psychiatric medications and housing provisions.  It found that while some states have increased funding of these services, the numbers are small in comparison to the deep cuts other states are implementing.

California and New York have the largest mental health budgets, but between 2011 and 2012, California cut its funding by $177.4 million and New York by $95.2 million.

Between 2009 and 2012, South Carolina cut 40 percent of its mental health allocations, and Alabama, Alaska, Illinois and Nevada weren’t far behind.  Alaska and Nevada have the highest and second highest suicide rates in the country, respectively.

And the cuts are wreaking havoc on much more than mental health services.

“Patients in crisis have nowhere to go and so they end up in emergency rooms.  The ER can’t dump people, but they have nowhere to put them, so patients are boarded in emergency rooms,” Honberg told ABC News.

Law enforcement officials are also getting involved.  Police have become first-line responders to mental health crises they aren’t trained to deal with, and prisons, already overcrowded, are the new psychiatric hospitals.

“State [mental health] facilities are closing and there is nowhere for people to get treatment.  [The consequences of the budget cuts] are turning out to be more expensive than simply providing people with mental health services,” said Honberg.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arizona Budget Cuts Put Some Organ Transplants Out of Reach

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MESA, Ariz.) -- As the United States continues debating expanded health care access, the state of Arizona has begun rationing some care it says it cannot afford to give its poorest residents. Beginning on Oct. 1, Arizona's Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, stopped covering seven types of organ transplants, including heart transplants for non-ischemic cardiomyopathy, lung transplants, pancreatic transplants, some bone marrow transplants and liver transplants for patients with hepatitis C.

The reductions made by the Arizona state government were approved by the federal government, according to an Aug. 11 letter from Gloria Nagle, associate regional administrator for the Division of Medicaid & Children's Health Operations. In addition to limiting organ transplants, Arizona also restricted coverage of prosthetics and zeroed out podiatrists' services, preventive dental services, and wellness and physical exams for adult Medicaid enrollees.

"This may be a harbinger of what will evolve in this Obama national healthcare system where the expense of the health system will only be able to be contained by limitation of access," said Dr. David C. Cronin, director of liver transplantation at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "So everybody may be covered, but all services may not be available."

Of Arizona's decision to pull the plug on an insured patient's transplant, he said, "I don't see how that's fair on any level. It's indefensible to renege if the patient did everything they were supposed to do and they don't have another option. You shouldn't try to balance your budget on the backs of the most desperate patients."

Arizona's Republican governor and legislature, who already control the state's purse strings, want even more independence when it comes to determining which health care services Arizona Medicaid patients receive. Indeed, Arizona's newly elected Senate President Russell Pearce has argued for cutting the state's Medicaid program, even if that means Arizona will lose about $7 billion worth of federal grants.

Jennifer Carusetta, chief legislative liaison for AHCCCS, said the state is facing a $1 billion deficit in the program come July 2011. Although Arizona's fiscal year began July 1, the state opted not to implement the cuts until Oct. 1, when it estimated they'd affect about 100 people on transplant lists. However, Carusetta said the state anticipated that only a fraction of them were likely to feel direct effects of the policy change. "We believe that only about 15 percent of those individuals would be able to get a match and secure an organ," she said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio