Mental health is affected by the poor economy

by James Baker, MD

All over the country, more people are seeking out mental health and developmental disability services from public clinics because they have lost their insurance.

Yet at the exact same time, those services have taken a big hit due to the poor economy, too. One survey says that 32 states have cut their public mental health services, and the average cut is about 5%.

That 5% may not sound like a lot, but at Metrocare Services it would be the equivalent of services to 1750 people. And, of course, the people we serve all have chronic disorders, no different than diabetes or heart disease. How do you go about telling 1750 people with diabetes that they’ll no longer be able to get their insulin?

Texas has not yet made the cuts that those 30+ others states have made. But when the legislature meets in January, our patients are at risk.

In Dallas, we’re fortunate that our commissioner’s court has gone on record in support of no cuts to state mental health services.

Now we all need to take that same message to our state legislators.

The problem with state level cuts is that they don’t save money. They just shift the cost from state government to county government. You and I end up paying, regardless, when patients start going to emergency rooms. That leads to increased county taxes or increased insurance premiums to cover their costs.

James Baker is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Metrocare Services who blogs at Mental Notes.

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  • stargirl65

    They just closed a regional inpatient/outpatient mental health center nearby. It served over 6 counties. The state said they could not maintain the funding. There are limited outpatient mental health services in my county and the wait for the services is over 6 weeks. IIf you have suicidal thoughts then you better just go to the ER because even I cannot get you seen by a psychiatrist for 6 weeks. There are only 2 psychiatrists taking insurance or working with medical plans and the rest are independents, but not on any charity programs.

    I am seeing more and more people with stress, anxiety and depression due to the recession. I provide some care for many, but they need counselling which they cannot afford. Also, the insurance companies will not pay me one cent if a use a mental health code. I have to use a code such as fatigue or palpitations to get paid. This causes the mental health problems to be underreported and affects funding and insurance company responsibilities.

    Mental health care needs to be better funded and payments for mental health care need to more equitable. It needs to be treated like any other health condition.