When states in the US start cutting costs by shutting down mental health facilities and reducing Medicaid, they risk swamping emergency rooms with critically ill psychiatric patients, say Melissa Silverberg and Bob Kazel writing in Bloomberg Businessweek.
This, instead of balancing the budget, will most probably raise health care costs.
Starting in 2009, states have till 2012 cut corners by hiving off 9.5 percent, or more than $1.6 billion, from their mental health spending, reports the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
In the coming budget year, Illinois will debate shutting down two psychiatric hospitals and Alabama will plan to close all mental health facilities, but two. One clinic will serve the elderly population and another will treat criminal cases.
Chicago's Public Health Department proposes to shutter half its 12 psychiatric clinics by the end of April 2012, and the state will close as many as two hospitals in the coming budget year.
These measures are in addition to cutbacks in Medicaid that Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is expected to announce today in his fiscal 2013 budget address.