Sacramento Bee Examines Impact of State Budget Problems on County Mental Health Services
The Sacramento Bee yesterday examined how state budget problems and the recent economic downturn have affected county health agencies, which are "being forced to cut or significantly reduce" mental health services for low-income residents. As a result of state budget reductions, counties "increasingly bear the responsibility for providing state and federally mandated services," such as mental health care, the Bee reports. The budget signed Saturday by Gov. Gray Davis (D) includes a 10% cut for mental health managed care and a 5% reduction in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates that may cause counties to further restrict the services. In addition, as a result of the recent economic downturn, counties face decreased revenue from sales taxes and vehicle license fees, which counties use in part to fund mental health services. Maureen Bauman, director of the adult system of care in Placer County, expressed concern over patients with less severe mental illnesses who will "suffer the brunt of the cuts," the Bee reports. County officials said that reduced services for patients with less severe mental illnesses could lead to a "vicious circle" -- in which patients who could "live fairly independently with county help may end up in prisons, hospitals or locked facilities if left on their own" -- that would cost counties more in the long term, the Bee reports. Stephen Mayberg, director of the Department of Mental Health, said, "It costs less to provide early intervention. For the cost of a crisis hospitalization for one day you could probably provide half a year of services to someone who didn't need hospitalization" (Wiener, Sacramento Bee, 8/3).
KQED's "California Report" today examined the effect of state budget reductions on county mental health services. According to KQED, the "outlook is grim" for county mental health programs, which had to lay off workers and reject patients before Davis signed the budget. The level of mental health care for California residents is "rapidly becoming a matter of geography," KQED reports (Kennedy, "California Report," KQED, 8/4). The full segment will be available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.