> Press Release
“We Can’t Afford To Care”: Is America
Throwing in the Towel?
Our state’s budget is in
trouble, and our most vulnerable neighbors are at risk.
Unrelenting budget pressures and the heated political debates on how to
relieve them are jeopardizing the care for people with serious mental
States nationwide have opted for record-setting decreases in mental
health agency budgets – a combined total of nearly $2.2 billion
according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program
Directors. For some states, this amounts to 20 percent of their
total mental health spending – even as demand for community-based
mental health services is rising in our state…and nationally.
And now our state leaders are
calling for “flexibility” in how they meet current requirements under
the state Medicaid program. Those calls, however, should not and
cannot be used as justification to undermine the care and support for
those with serious mental illness. Medicaid often funds the
mental health professionals who serve these individuals and, by doing
so, keeps these people connected to their communities.
Politicians’ calls for shared
sacrifice in balancing state budgets are commendable in theory.
Yet, we must turn aside actions that would essentially deliver the
message: “We can’t afford to care.”
At Hill Country MHDD Centers,
we stand on the front lines of providing comprehensive mental health
services to over 3,000 residents per month throughout a 19 county area
of the great Texas Hill Country.
The people we serve and their
families are better able to contribute productively at work, in schools
and through volunteering in the communities in which they live.
Federal and state budget decisions threaten our ability and those of
other mental health providers in the state to keep over 100,000
individuals each month engaged in daily meaningful and purposeful
We know health care dollars
are precious, and so we work to apply them in ways that build and
strengthen our community’s safety net for those who are often least
able to fend for themselves. Among the keys to ensuring success
of our efforts: improving and standardizing the care for the
individuals we treat. In short, we’re determining what works best
and replicating it.
As part of our efforts to
advance standardized care, Hill Country MHDD Centers is one of 10
community behavioral healthcare organizations nationwide that the
National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare selected to
participate in its “Advancing Standards of Care for People with
This program is designed to
improve the daily functioning of people with schizophrenia, and to
shift the understanding and expectations of what is achievable for
these individuals – from their vantage point, from the perspective of
the mental health professionals who work with them and from the
attitudes of the general public who too often don’t understand them.
The promise of the pilot
program has been evident even in its first few months. We’ve
taken a relatively basic shift in how we’ve approached treatment by
using a standardized tool for how a person is functioning in his or her
We already see common ground between our medical team and patients on
treatment goals, and more effective ways to benchmark progress.
At the end of the day, we expect this progress to translate into
greater independence for the individual – and maybe even a reduced
dependence on other areas of our health care system. Patients in
the program have truly become engaged in their treatment and have taken
a greater responsibility for their personal recovery. Patients
within the program have been so receptive to the curriculum in the
program that Hill Country has expanded its use to benefit other
With one in 17 Americans
suffering from serious mental illness each year, our Federal and state
lawmakers need to establish budget priorities that make clear we are a
society that will afford to care for those most in need.