Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What's 'conservative' about dumping mental health costs on counties?

The Longview News-Journal on Sunday published a notable editorial demanding that Texas lawmakers avoid cuts to the mental health system that would shift costs to local governments, particularly jails and courts. The editorial opens with the question: "Can state lawmakers be 'conservatives' in Austin if they are cutting funding for necessary programs that governments back home will have to spend tax dollars to support? We think the answer is a resounding no." Here's a particularly pertinent excerpt:
Routine mental health services were the first to fall during the 2003 budget crisis, which was preceded by pre-session cuts the fall and summer of 2002.

East Texas mental health professionals, judges, law enforcement and elected officials tell us such cuts already have curtailed routine services with demonstrated success keeping patients faithful to their prescription drug regimens. That, in turn, keeps them from falling into the behaviors that land them in jail or emergency rooms where costs are at their highest.

Effectively mandating such inefficient use of resources certainly is not what we consider a conservative approach from state lawmakers. Local officials and agencies, seeing the problem the state has pushed onto them, are cobbling together innovative programs to fill the gap, but they acknowledge problems remain.
So we were pleased to hear Rep.-elect David Simpson, a Longview Republican among 22 freshman GOP legislators voted into office this fall on a tea party platform of smaller government, tell us such programs would be low on his list of targets for further cuts.

“The weak, the poor are the last place to look,” Simpson told the News-Journal’s Glenn Evans. “And we don’t want to just push down the cost. If we cut them back, we’re just pushing it down” to local governments.
Sen. Kevin Eltife, a Tyler Republican, agreed.

“We do not need to shove these costs to another level of government,” Eltife told Evans. “At one time, cuts were made to mental health, and (patients) all showed up in emergency rooms.”

Among the local solutions being worked out is a partnership between the courts and an East Texas mental health service center to provide a so-called mental health bond aiming to get those needing care out of jail cells and into treatment programs.

Gregg County is considering a partnership to establish an intermediate care facility to pick up slack for the loss of care at state-financed facilities like Rusk State Hospital.

And a Federally Qualified Health Care program is being established to provide psychiatric care and prescription guidance through a Longview wellness center.

We applaud the efforts of those working together for solutions in Gregg County. And we hope lawmakers in Austin will follow their lead in finding innovative solutions that spread responsibility between the public and private sectors. We think the solution must include an acceptance of all sources of help, from federal funding to local volunteers.

Simply turning a blind eye to problems created by cuts is not acceptable.
See prior, related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

I guess I have mixed feelings about this. I spent about 5 years working for CPS in the 90s and it was extremely frustrating trying to help parents get mental health services for children and themselves and I also have attempted to help a family member get services. Dealing with the community mental health providers and state hospital systems can be an extremely frustrating experience. The level of care provided, in most cases, is disgustingly inadequate. Cutting it anymore will make it practically non-existent for many people in need of the services. I say I have mixed feelings because the quality of care that many get now is so low that completely cutting it out may not make much of a difference. I haven't seen the stats lately but a few years ago I think Texas was ranked 49th among the states in spending for mental health services.

Anonymous said...

The truth is that politicians don't give a shit about the poor or mentally ill people in this state. They don't vote, which means the talking heads in Austin don't pay any attention to these type of people. Texas only spends $36 per capita on mental health services, where as the national average is $100..The proof is in the pudding..Nothing will ever change, wake up and smell the coffee....

Anonymous said...

One place they need to address is Value Options, what an absolute waste of resources. The state gives this company money to manage 7 counties mhmr centers. They produce no revenue and rely on tax dollars to pay their employees salries and benfits. The state wastes so much money it's not even funny. Managed healthcare just proves how lazy and stupid some state employees are..

Anonymous said...

At this time of year each person is encouraged to set resolutions and new goals for the coming year. In setting resolutions, looking back and evaluating what has been done and how effective and its effects. Politician have seem to have turned a blind eye to the effectiveness of cutting mental health budget when it comes to looking at the entire domino effect. When will the full picture be looked at and will see more dollars are spent and not saved.

Anonymous said...

Sen. Kevin Eltife, a Tyler Republican, agreed.

“We do not need to shove these costs to another level of government,” Eltife told Evans. “At one time, cuts were made to mental health, and (patients) all showed up in emergency rooms.”

They didn't all show up in emergency rooms Kevin, they've showed up in county jails.

Uh Kevin, when did you get concerned about unfunded mandates? While you're at Kevin, why don't you and the lege do something about all of the other "unfunded mandates" you've all heaped on local taxpayers.

zeety said...

We found out what "conservative" means during the Obamacare debate when Teabaggers swamped all the townhall meetings in their Medicare provided scooters screaming "No Government controlled healthcare!"

Bunch of goddamn stupid lunatics who watch way too much Fox News.