LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The Department of State Health Services recently released a proposal to cut more than $240 million in mental health.
Proposed cuts would affect community mental health services, substance addiction services, and state hospital systems. If reductions are implemented by legislature, more than 20,000 Texans could lose access to mental health care statewide.
Beth Lawson, Associate CEO of Lubbock Regional MHMR says Lubbock could see a 10 to 12 percent cut in funding. Lubbock MHMR is already in the process of making cuts. As a result of the cuts in progress, more than 400 adults and children are being discharged from services. Specifically, Sunrise Canyon Hospital could lose more than $400,000 in funding.
Brian Shannon is on the Lubbock MHMR board, a law professor at Texas Tech, and a brother of an MHMR patient. He says these cuts will affect everybody in the system. "When you see cuts across the board in these human services areas you see connection to impacting a lot of very real people," Shannon said.
MHMR helped Shannon's brother when he became mentally ill. He thinks his brother's life was saved because of the level of care he received. He worries those seeking treatment may not receive the same care if the cuts go through. "What we've seen through the research is treatment works, and the up front costs of providing care today is not only the humane thing to do, but also less expensive than the backdoor types of treatment."
Backdoor treatments can affect everybody, not just patients. Drue Farmer is a member of the Lubbock MHMR board and a Lubbock County Judge. She often hears troubling stories of the mentally ill in prisons. "If their illness is not recognized then they tend to withdraw and become the silent inmate. Nobody realizes that they have a problem and they just end up in the criminal justice system," Farmer said.
It costs more money to treat the mentally ill in prisons than it does locally. Shannon says that mentally ill patients' crimes are often committed as a result of their condition. He says many are sentenced for misdemeanors such as loitering or trespassing. Once they're released, if their conditions go untreated, they find themselves in similar situations. Farmer refers to this as the 'revolving door'. "I think we can stop that revolving door through medication and local services," she said.
A rainy day fund has been set up for times of financial crisis. Shannon said that with the current deficit if today isn't considered a rainy day, he isn't sure what is.
Copyright 2010 KCBD. All rights reserved.