More than 4.3 million Texans, including 1.2 million children, live with some form of mental health disorder. Of these, 1.5 million cannot function at work, school, or in the community due to their illness.
Over the past decade, insufficient state funding eroded Texas’ ability to care for patients with mental disorders. As the availability of services declined, these patients, insured and uninsured alike, had to seek care in hospital emergency rooms. Texas’ prison system also warehouses mentally ill patients who are waiting for a psychiatric bed or community help to become available.
Mental illness costs the state and local governments more than $1.5 billion per year. The state must pay for each person who is repeatedly jailed, hospitalized, or admitted to detoxification centers due to mental illness — and one year in jail alone will cost up to $50,000.
In 2007, legislators took important steps to improve the state’s ability to provide health care services to these patients. Additional funds were used to expand community-based and crisis mental health services, such as 24/7 crisis hotlines and mobile crisis outreach teams to respond to crises at schools, homes, or other settings. The Department of State Health Services reported more patients now are receiving better care. More importantly, the changes reduced psychiatric-related emergency room visits by Medicaid patients, inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations, and prison incarcerations — all of which are expensive venues to treat mental illness.
Unfortunately, these recent improvements to Texas’ mental health services and psychiatric hospitals are now targeted for steep budget cuts (PDF). Cutting mental health services only harms patients without achieving any real savings. TMA asks lawmakers to continue funding mental health services so local communities aren’t stuck with an even higher price tag to care for these patients.
Medicine’s 2011 Agenda
- Preserve funding for cost-effective, community-based mental health care for adults and children, including prevention, early intervention, and crisis mental health services for patients in need of immediate psychiatric intervention.
- Despite improved funding, Texas continues to lag far behind other states in spending per person for mental health care. Inadequate state funding puts the burden on local resources, and leads to increased rates of incarceration and higher use of public hospital emergency rooms, homeless shelters, and the foster care system.
- It is proven fact. Mental illness costs the state and local governments more than $1.5 billion per year. The state must pay for each person who is repeatedly jailed, hospitalized, or admitted to detoxification centers due to mental illness — and one year in jail alone will cost up to $50,000