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March 17, 2005

From:  The Campaign for Mental Health Reform

House Medicaid Cuts Devastating for Americans with Mental Illnesses, Say Advocates

House Budget Resolution Draws Sharp Criticism

Washington, DC - The House of Representatives today passed a federal budget resolution that advocates say would dramatically reduce federal support for Medicaid-financed mental health services.

"Indiscriminate Medicaid cuts could have a crippling effect at the local level and absolutely devastate the tens of thousands of people with mental illnesses and their families who rely on Medicaid to access needed services," Linda Rosenberg, spokeswoman for the Campaign for Mental Health Reform and President and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.

Medicaid is the single largest source of financing for mental health care and provides over half of state and local spending on mental health services. However, even with current federal support for Medicaid, one of every two Americans who need mental health treatment do not receive it, and the rate is even lower - and the quality of care poorer - for ethnic and racial minorities, according to the President’s Commission on Mental Health.

Without access to needed services, adults and children with mental illnesses face increased risk of school failure, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, arrest, incarceration, increased reliance on emergency facilities, and suicide. "Investing in services that enable individuals to improve and become or remain productive citizens saves resources in the long-term," said Bill Emmet, Director of the Campaign for Mental Health Reform.

"Congress should be mending the delicate safety net for Americans who have mental illnesses," said Rosenberg. "Instead, lawmakers have put forth a budget resolution that cuts crucial spending on health care for some of America’s poorest and most marginalized citizens."

The House-approved budget resolution provides no specific proposals on how Medicaid cuts can be achieved. However, advocates believe that House and Senate appropriators will likely seek guidance from President Bush’s budget, which calls for cuts in a critical set of services for people with mental illness.

The budget resolution, which passed the House on a vote of 218-214 calls for roughly $20 billion in Medicaid cuts and an estimated $106 billion in tax cuts over the next five years. The Senate earlier today passed an amendment to strip about $15 billion in Medicaid cuts from its version of the budget resolution.

"Unfortunately, Medicaid is fast becoming Capitol Hill’s favorite political piñata," said Rosenberg. "We urge Congress to take a deliberate, careful approach to changes in such an important program."

The Campaign for Mental Health Reform has issued a series of proposals for improving Medicaid, available online at http://www.mhreform.org/policy/whithermedicaid.htm.

"The key to saving tax dollars is improving outcomes for people with mental illnesses," said Rosenberg. "In the long run, increasing the number of Americans who recover from mental illness and increasing their opportunities to lead successful lives in the community is the best way to save money in Medicaid and other federal programs that serve people with mental illnesses."

# # #

The Campaign for Mental Health Reform has been organized as the mental health community’s united voice on federal policy. Its goal is to make access, recovery, and quality in mental health services the hallmarks of our nation’s mental health system. Its members include organizations representing millions of people with mental or emotional disorders and their families and service providers, administrators and other advocates.

Campaign for Mental Health Reform: American Psychiatric Association * American Psychological Association * CHADD - Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder * Consumer Organizing and Networking Technical Assistance Center (CONTAC) * Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) * Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health (FFCMH) * International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services (IAPSRS) * Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law * National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) * National Association of County Behavioral Health Directors (NACBHD) * National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) * National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (NCCBH) * National Empowerment Center (NEC) * National Mental Health Association (NMHA) * National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse * Suicide Prevention Action Network USA (SPANUSA)

Steering Committee: Robert Bernstein, Ph.D., Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law * Robert W. Glover, Ph.D., National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors * Michael Faenza, MSSW, National Mental Health Association * Michael Fitzpatrick, MSW, NAMI National Alliance for the Mentally Ill


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