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An attack on mental health care

Today, there is more attention paid to the importance of mental health than during any other time in history, yet on both a state and national level the future of mental health care is under attack. 

On the state level, mental health care is among the most hard hit areas in this year’s proposed budget cuts. Budget proposals include a $1.2 million cut to the Connectict Mental Health Center, $4.7 million cut from grants for mental health, substance abuse services and employment opportunities, and a 10 percent, $40,000 cut from mental health services in schools. The proposed cuts also include a $2.5 million cut in mental health privatization for the 2018 fiscal year and a $5 million cut in the 2019 fiscal year. 

Nearly every facet of state funded mental health care will take a serious hit if these proposed cuts are enacted, a bleak reality that seems quite possible given the state of Connecticut’s current finances. 

On the national level mental health care has repeatedly been one of the most at risk subdivisions of health care in the Republican effort to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. The Better Care Reconciliation Act, the most recent Republican effort, would result in the loss of benefits that came with the Medicaid expansion, which included increased funding to mental health and addiction services.

 

This should be particularly alarming to those of us living in Litchfield County given the current opioid crisis. Addiction services are among the largest subdivisions of mental health care.  In an interview with the CT Mirror, Maria Skinner, the executive director of the McCall Center for Behavioral Health in Torrington, explained that one of the dangers of lowering eligibility for Medicaid without creating other viable options would result in patients being cycled in and out of care - a practice that makes mental health care significantly less effective. 

According to Newsweek, every year about 18.2 percent, or approximately one in five, American adults suffers from some kind of mental illness. Additionally, according to CT I-Health Team, in 2012 mental health became the leading cause of hospitalization for children 5-12, teens, and young adults in the state. This statistic shows the strain already put on state limited mental health resources. 

With so many people struggling with mental illness the effects that will result from a combination of state cuts and federal legislation will be devastating. No country can be great if its foundation is flawed with an ill and untreated population. With all of the advancement in mental health care in the last 50 years, now is not the time to move backwards and sweep it under the rug with financial cuts to the core programs and legislative disinterest. 

Contact your state legislators and urge them to support funding for these essential services.

 

Cecilia Petricone is an intern at the Office of the Community Lawyer and a sophomore at Boston College.