Here’s an article from the Texas Tribune about the effect on a state budget when mental health services are cut. I don’t really understand the thinking behind cutting services for this already under-served population. The mentally ill who are going to lose services are the very people we need to protect. These are the ultimate victims. They deserve protection from themselves and from others.
The article points out that with these cuts, we are slowly making the prison system the largest mental health program in the nation. Untreated mentally ill people usually act in such a way that they become involved with the law enforcement community. When they make really poor choices and attempt to harm themselves or others they are the most likely to end up in jail, or worse, be sent to prison.
Comparing the costs of maintaining out-patient services against the cost of maintaining the current prison system should make a decision easy. To me it is a no-brainer. It is better all around to treat the mentally ill at home in the community. It is better for them, better for you and me, and better for the budget. What’s so hard to see?
- by Brandi Grissom
Slashing funds for community-based mental health care will hurt taxpayers and degrade the quality of life for thousands of mentally ill Texans and their families, Harris County Jail officials told Texas budget writers today in written testimony for the Senate Finance Committee.
Current budget proposals would cut more than $1.1 billion from community-based mental health programs, and would gut some entirely.
Dr. Michael Seale, executive director for health services at the Harris County Jail and a member of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, told lawmakers they would save taxpayers more money in the long run by adequately funding community-based mental health programs that help keep people out of the big house and in treatment. The average daily cost to treat someone in a community-based setting, Seale said, is about $12 daily. In prison, it costs about $137 daily to care for mentally ill inmates. “Clearly, state and local taxpayers enjoy greater safety and greater savings when state-funded mental health programs succeed,” Seale wrote.
On any given day, about one-quarter of the Harris County Jail population, about 2,400 inmates, takes prescribed psychotropic medications, making it the largest mental health institution in the state. If there are fewer community-based programs to help mentally ill Texans, more of them will land in jails that are ill-equipped and already struggling to deal with a growing special needs population. “Further erosion of state mental health funding for programs in the county will lead to more strain on law enforcement and higher bills for taxpayers,” wrote Major Mike Smith, commander of Harris County’s detention bureau.
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