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Wednesday, May 6, 2009 01:02 am

The high cost of behavioral health cuts

Thousands will get substandard care

Frank Anselmo, chief executive officer of Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois.

Community behavioral healthcare providers recently claimed that Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to slash state mental health and substance abuse treatment funding by $26 million and $12 million, respectively, in next year’s budget will translate to substandard services for more than 46,000 patients.

In a survey released April 20, the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois reports that agencies could be forced to eliminate care for 7,000 adults and 9,600 children by June 30, 2010. The Springfield-based nonprofit organization, which represents 95 mental health, substance abuse and youth service providers, estimates that nearly 30,000 additional Illinois residents face reduced mental health care and drug treatment due to state funding cuts.

Frank Anselmo, the organization’s chief executive officer, says fewer healthcare options could push patients to seek more expensive treatment in hospital emergency rooms. More patients might go on waiting lists, he says — not usually recommended in mental health situations. Untreated stress or depression could lead to more dysfunctional problems, especially with children and families.

“We’ll have less professionals doing the work that they do with interventions,” Anselmo says. “Less people working with the schools, less people working with the families.”

Anselmo and other behavioral health advocates say that Illinois offers a solution in its Community Mental Health Medicaid Trust Fund. This fund was created in June 2002 to support Department of Human Services payments to community health providers. Tom Green, DHS spokesman, says the organization has paid $40 million to providers so far in fiscal year 2009.

The Community Mental Health Medicaid Trust Fund will benefit from the recent increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, jumping from 50 to 60 percent and allocating more money for state mental health services.

Senate Joint Resolution 31 calls on Quinn’s administration to use funds from both the Community Mental Health Medicaid Trust Fund and the Health and Human Services Medicaid Trust Fund to maintain current appropriation levels to support mental health and substance abuse treatment. Last week the resolution was adopted by the Senate and forwarded for consideration by the House.

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