Saturday, December 06, 2008

 

Lingle administration cuts to mental health services protested


by Larry Geller

It’s not just Medicaid (see previous article). The Maui News reported yesterday on protests there to cuts to mental health services. The Hawaii Department of Health has drastically curtailed services to those who need them most. And many of them are shocked at the depth of the cuts, as you’ll read in the article.

The Lingle administration will no doubt say that cuts must be made everywhere. This is not true. There’s no reason why cuts have to be distributed uniformly. To do so means that Hawaii’s most vulnerable citizens, whether they are aged, disabled, or in this case requiring mental health services, bear the brunt of the cuts disproportionally. If your medicines or services are cut off, that’s it. It’s not like not painting a building so often, for example.

Clients of mental health programs supported by the state turned out in Wailuku on Thursday to protest budget cuts that will slash the services they receive.

Last month, the state Department of Health announced that starting Jan. 1 it would cap the number of hours case managers can spend with with their clients at 3.5 hours per person per month - down from three hours a day. The cuts are part of an effort to make up for a budget shortfall of $25 million in the Adult Mental Health Division for the current fiscal year.

"This is so important. It affects everyone - everyone knows someone who suffers from a mental illness," said Shai Marumoto.

The state will pay a bigger price as people benefiting from mental health services stop getting the support they need, he said.

"It's just going to get picked up by the police, the ambulance, the emergency room." [Maui News, Cuts to mental health programs denounced, 12/5/2008]

This is not just Maui, it’s state-wide, and it’s just as short-sighted here on Oahu as on the Neighbor Islands.

Surely the state could find other ways to cut costs than on the backs of those who are most in need of its services.

Any claims that Lingle is a popular governor should be met with derision from now on. During her first term she testified in favor of mental health bills at the Legislature. I was impressed. In her second term she is cutting off people who are most in need of services. I’m impressed now with the coldness with which these cuts are being executed.



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