Thursday, February 24, 2011

UTNE Reader - Losing It - America’s mental health crisis is a matter of priorities

Important article from the UTNE Reader on the state of mental health care. The article spends some serious time on the issue of Jared Loughner, the troubled kid who held a three-year grudge against Gabriel Giffords and then tried to assassinate her, killing six innocent victims and injuring many more. Giffords was shot in the head - and although she survived and is recovering, the wound will leave with some level of disability.

So why was a kid so obviously (according to reports on his behavior from classmates and peers) allowed to wander around without treatment AND buy a gun and extended magazine, essentially creating a held-held, easily concealed machine gun?

For me, however, this is the key point in the article, the real source of the problem:
Besides a few glancing references on the odd editorial page, no connection was made between the shooting spree in Arizona and the lack of affordable, universal health care. Politicians, who once again made a show of mourning the loss of America’s innocence, also escaped scrutiny for spending the last 15 years systematically severing society’s safety net, forcing social service workers and health care professionals to make life and death choices based almost entirely on the bottom line.
This is Arizona, and this will happen again. We have some of the most lax gun laws in the country. We have a One Billion Dollar Deficit in the state budget, and despite this horrible lack of funds that is destroying health care for the poorest citizens, gutting the state university system, and even destroying the public school system Governor Brewer swore to protect in her campaign - despite all of this, state GOP leaders (including Brewer) just passed a 500 million dollar tax cut for the wealthy and for businesses. Seriously.

You know where that money is going to come from? Services for the poor, including mental health services. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers some hard numbers:
As a result of state budget cuts, over 1 million low-income Arizona residents have lost access to Medicaid services offered by the state, including emergency dental services, medically necessary dentures, insulin pumps, airway devices for people with chronic lung disease, gastric bypass surgery, certain hearing aids for the deaf or severely hard of hearing, and prosthetics.

***

Arizona has eliminated a host of behavioral health services for 4,000 children ineligible to receive such services through Medicaid, and has also cut case management, therapy, and transportation services for 14,500 individuals participating in a non-Medicaid program for the seriously mentally ill.

***

Arizona eliminated preschool for 4,328 children, funding for schools to provide additional support to disadvantaged children from preschool to third grade, aid to charter schools, and funding for books, computers, and other classroom supplies. The state also halved funding for kindergarten, leaving school districts and parents to shoulder the cost of keeping their children in school beyond a half-day schedule.

***

Arizona’s Board of Regents approved in-state undergraduate tuition increases of between 9 and 20 percent as well as fee increases at the state’s three public universities. Additionally, the three state universities implemented a 2.75 percent reduction in state-funded salary spending and through a variety of actions, such as academic reorganization, layoffs, furloughs, position eliminations, hiring fewer tenure-eligible faculty, and higher teaching workloads.

***

Arizona is cutting the time limit for temporary cash assistance to 36 months from 60. As a result, an estimated 8,200 families will lose eligibility for that assistance.
Is it fair to cut services for the poor, the elderly, and the mentally ill - not to mention cutting education, the backbone of a healthy and successful society - so that wealthy people and businesses can pay less in taxes?

This is one of the central issues in my perspective - Government should not be involved in every area of our lives, but it should be a safety net for those who need help. We have spent the last 30 years making sure that is no longer the case.

Losing It

We have to start talking about America’s mental health crisis

Read the rest of the article.

Post a Comment