By Michael Fitzpatrick, NAMI Executive Director
If you follow the news, you are well aware that policy makers in Washington are currently meeting, discussing and debating measures to control spending and address the federal budget deficit.
The debate right now is taking place in the context of Congress needing to raise the national debt limit by August 2—or otherwise default on loans, which would impact the world economy.
What you may not realize is that the intense debate includes proposals that would result in huge cuts to Medicaid, The proposals would greatly threaten the already fragile mental health care system for people living with mental illness.
These decisions are being made now as fierce negotiations take place. Waiting until August for the outcome will be too late.
Consider the scope:
- 2.5 million youth and adults with serious mental illness on Medicaid are eligible on the basis of mental illness.
- 7.5 million Americans receive life saving mental health services through Medicaid in a given year.
- Medicaid is one of the largest funders of mental health services, paying for over 50 percent of all publicly funded treatment and services for people living with mental illness.
The key proposal being debated today—which the U.S. House of Representatives has already passed—would “cap” the amount of federal funding each state receives to cover these services, regardless of need. This proposal to “block grant” Medicaid will “save” the federal government money, but risks and costs will only be shifted to the states and, consequently, to our local communities.
The lives of millions are at stake.
The result of Congressional discussions determine the outcome for Medicaid and, thus, will have a tremendous impact on our already fragile mental health care system. Millions of Americans with mental illness are at risk of losing vital safety net services, basic health care, access to life saving medications and more.
For those of us who advocate tirelessly for people with mental illness, now is the time to contact our U.S. Senators and Representatives.
Our message: Medicaid must be protected for vulnerable youth and adults living with serious mental illness.
Oppose converting Medicaid into a block grant, do not place caps on Medicaid funding for people with mental illness and ensure access to lifesaving care.
Tough times require smart decisions. We must take action to protect our nation’s health.