July 20, 2010; Source: Bellingham Herald | According to this article, on average across the nation, states reduced their mental health budgets by 4 percent between 2008 and 2009 and, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, spending appears to have fallen nearly 5 percent in 2010. In 2011 it is estimated that mental health budgets may sink by 8 percent or more.

This article talks specifically about three states—Arizona, Mississippi, and Illinois—where cuts have been especially deep and have had devastating effects. In Arizona, for instance, the budget for mental health services was cut by 37 percent for a loss of $36 million. In Illinois the governor proposed a cut of $91 million but reduced that loss to $35 million after patients and practitioners protested outside of his house earlier this month.

I have mentioned before in these Newswires that the system of care is being made progressively more weak just at the moment when 1) unemployment is up and with that so is serious mental illness, and 2) just when more money will be made available through the mental Health Parity Act and the Health Care Reform Act. It makes absolutely no sense and will make rational implementation of those measures much more difficult.

Says Michael Fitzgerald of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, “States are chipping away at their already very fragile mental health system. More people will be unable to find even basic services that allow them to stay out of the hospital or involvement with police. It’s a dire situation that we’ve never seen before.” —Ruth McCambridge