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Health: Mental health funding failing
There is a mental health crisis in Washington state. We at Compass Health, a local community mental health organization, are being negatively impacted by this funding crisis. As a result, we have had to close programs, including our homeless drop-in center and Luther Childrens Crisis Facility in Everett, reduce adult crisis beds throughout our region and cut some of our outpatient services.
These cuts are due to reductions in funding over the past 12 months. Weve been forced to reduce our operating expenditures by $3 million in order to address these losses in funding. We have cut 60 jobs and have been turning away at least 80 clients per month, due to our reduced capacity to meet the mental health needs of people in our community.
Additionally, beginning July 1, 2005, State and Federal Medicaid funding cannot be used to serve non-Medicaid enrollees or to provide non-allowable services. Because of this change, the State of Washington will lose $41 million in federal funding per year in its already inadequately funded mental health system.
To avoid catastrophic failure of the mental health system, the Legislature must backfill this $41 million per year loss with state funding and provide an equitable distribution of these funds across the state. If this doesnt happen, Compass Health will be faced with an additional $2.5 million budget cut between now and this July. Obviously this will mean more program closures and staff reductions.
The states mental health funding dilemma is disturbing in many ways, from the loss of medical care for hundreds of individuals to loss of jobs of those providing the care.
We at Compass Health are doing all we can to lessen the impact of the states mental health crisis, and we assure you, we are working to keep as many of our services open and available to you as we can. We need your help convincing the State Legislature to prioritize mental health care funding for the coming biennium. Please help us advocate for those who cant. Ask your legislature to fully fund our states mental health system.
Jess C. Jamieson, Ph.D.