States slash $1.8 billion in mental health funds since 2009

By Sophie Terbush, USA TODAY

Since 2009, state legislatures have cut $1.8 billion in non-Medicaid mental health spending, according to a report released today by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Vital services cut include community- and hospital-based psychiatric care, inpatient housing and access to medications for tens of thousands of adults and children living with serious mental illnesses, the report says. Deeper cuts are projected for 2011 and 2012.

“On any given day, half the people with serious mental illness in this country receive no treatment,” says Michael Fitzpatrick,

executive director of the alliance. “If you don’t have the ability to do early intervention and public education so family members, the public, police and college administrators understand what mental illness is and how to get treatment, there’s a price to pay.”

Fitzpatrick adds that the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in Tucson has put the spotlight on the public mental health system. One important lesson learned, he says: “Get people into treatment when they need it.”

One in 17 Americans lives with a serious psychological disorder such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder, according to the report. About one in 10 children live with a serious disorder.

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