By Mike Fitzpatrick, NAMI Executive Director
Mental health matters. Budget cuts in mental health services also matter in determining how well our states are doing in meeting the mental health needs of its citizens.
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently released estimates of mental illness by state.
Using conservative methodology, SAMHSA reports that approximately 20 percent of adult Americans experienced mental illness of some kind in the past year.
For serious mental illness, involving “substantial functional impairment,” the rate was 4.6 percent—about 10 million Americans. Only 60 percent received treatment.
The state with the highest rate of serious mental illness was Rhode Island, which news media have focused on.
But there is a bigger story.
Before the nation’s economic crisis kicked-in, NAMI graded state mental health care systems based on 65 criteria. The national average was D. Most states were struggling to improve their systems, which require investment.
Rhode Island received a C grade in 2009. From 2009 to 2011, it increased mental health spending by 7.4 percent—in essence, running hard to try to meet demand.
Earlier this year, NAMI released a special report on state mental health budgets cuts. Two-thirds of states made cuts from 2009 to 2011, ranging from three to 35 percent.
Looking at he SAMHSA figures and NAMI’s special report, four of the states with the highest levels of serious mental illness cut mental health care by three to 11 percent.
They were: Idaho, Indiana, Utah and West Virginia—none which had received higher than a D in 2009. Their rates of serious mental illness range from 5.8 to 6.2 percent.
Like Rhode Island, four states with the highest levels of serious mental illness managed to increase spending on mental health care by factors of one to 23 percent. They were Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota and Oregon. Their rates of serious mental illness range from 5.3 to 6.9 percent.
In the SAMHSA estimates, six states tied for 10th place with a rate of 5.2 percent for serious mental illness. From 2009 to 2011, four of them cut mental health care in a range from seven to 11 percent. They were Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Ohio.
Look at the numbers. Follow the money.
Approximately a third of people living with serious mental illness aren’t getting treatment. Over the past three years, two-thirds of states have cut mental health care.
Approximately half of the states with the ten highest rates of serious mental illness are on the list of those states that have cut mental health care.
NAMI is working on an updated state mental health budget report that will be released soon.
In the meantime, we hope that governors who are preparing state budgets will keep the SAMHSA estimates in mind.
Looking toward Election Day on November 8, these are also facts to keep in mind in the voting booth.