Stanislaus County Cuts Mental Health Care From Indigent Program
In a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors decided to eliminate mental health services from the adult indigent health program, the Modesto Bee reports.
The indigent health program provides medical care for 6,100 county residents who are not eligible for public programs such as Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.
The county Health Services Agency spends about $300,000 to purchase psychiatric drugs for patients with severe mental health disorders. Supervisors said the agency should not be spending its budget to treat such conditions or incurring liability.
However, Supervisors Bill O'Brien and Jim DeMartini, who cast the dissenting votes, stressed that the county is responsible for hospitalization costs for patients who are denied medication.
County mental health advisory board members added that the county did not take into account the costs of hospitalization, law enforcement, incarceration and court hearings for patients who become unstable.
About 160 patients will continue to have access to psychiatric drugs at the county health clinics for the next 60 days.
However, the supervisors charged the Health Services Agency and county mental health department with identifying another way to manage patients with mental illnesses.
In the meantime, clinic physicians will continue to prescribe medication for minor disorders, and clinic staff will apply for free medications from drug company charity programs to treat patients who need stronger drugs (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 3/19).
"The board should not have taken this action without a backup plan in place," a Bee editorial states. "It would be penny wise and pound foolish to eliminate a $300,000 program that could cost many times that in hospitalization and, in a worst case scenario, violence" (Modesto Bee, 3/20).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.