Updated Monday, Feb. 2
Hundreds of people gathered at the Capitol to provide moving and compelling public testimony on proposed cuts to state health and human services in early February. These accounts have demonstrated that a "cuts-only" approach is unacceptable to the people who access critical community-based services. The Center for Public Policy has posted posted an overview of House Bill (HB) 1 and Senate Bill (SB) 1, each chamber’s version of the proposed state budget, and a chart comparing the current budget, HB 1, SB 1 and the cost of current services.
Locally, Judge Nancy Hohengarten from County Court at Law #5 and Major Mark Sawa from the Travis County Sheriff's office organized quickly to speak on behalf of community centers. Survey data compiled by the National Council in a Congressional briefing on mental health budget cuts last week revealed that states have been forced to cut mental health agency budgets by a combined total of nearly $2.2 billion over the last three fiscal years, the largest reduction to mental health spending since the 1960s. This national discussion has underscored the importance of timely and effective treatment. Some states, including Texas, have been forced to make cuts equaling 20 percent of their total mental health spending.
What's at Stake
Although it's been difficult to project the exact number of people at-risk for losing services, here are the projected estimates for people in Travis County:
Mental Health Services
- With an additional 1,300 people actively seeking access to services – an estimated total of 3,300 individuals will subsequently be referred to more expensive community service alternatives such as hospital emergency rooms and local jails
- 1,750 chronically mentally ill adults out of 7,850 currently receiving adult mental health services at Integral Care will be transitioned out of services (22.3%, $2.2 M)
- 250 children who out of 1,250 who are currently receiving childrens mental health services and supports will be transitioned out of Integral Care services (12.5%, $677,000)
- $355,000 reduction for Crisis Services (6%)
- $188,000 reduction for Substance Use Services (8%)
- 160 individuals and their families enrolled in the juvenile justice program each year (100%, $360,000)
- Almost half for adult juvenille justice programs ($93,000)
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services
- 600 individuals of 1,550 who are currently receiving intellectual and disability services will need to be transitioned out of services (38.7%, $2.9 M)
- 180 of 600 young children in the Early Childhood Intervention program will be transitioned to other services over the course of a year (30%, $273,000)
Real People Impacted by Cuts from Community Based-Programs
Click here to view a video from the Texas Tribune about mentally ill Harris County Jail inmates and with consumers who use community-based services to stay out of jail and off the streets.
Federal Issues Compound Local Impact
Activities at the federal level will undoubedtly further compound the effects of proposed local cuts. Specifically at risk is the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant, a major source of funding for state and local government health systems serving adults and children at risk of, or experiencing, mental illness. In FY 2008, more than 6 million people were served by programs supported in part by these grants. The second program at risk is the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant that helps state and local governments support and expand prevention and treatment to individuals and families at risk of, or affected by, substance abuse and to reduce the impact of substance abuse on communities. These two programs currently receive $2.2 billion a year.
The House proposal would reduce funding for the portion of the budget that contains these and other substance abuse and mental health programs by 6.3 percent. If these programs are cut 6.3 percent, the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant will lose $26 million and the Substance Abuse and Treatment Block Grant will lose $113 million.
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