The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

State losing 600 mental health workers

Here is an article that simply does not make any sense.  I know we are in a recession, but why are we downsizing mental health?  Does a slow economy mean less mental health issues?  I think it means just the opposite.  There are many more individuals out there who are just beginning to struggle with their illness–whether it is depression, anxiety, or something more serious, such as first breaks for psychosis.  Add to that the number of people who are losing access to their insurance benefits and will now go untreated or add to the burden of our hospital ER’s.
There is plenty of information available that shows there has been an increase in depression and anxiety in the general population; just as there is information available that shows that limiting access to mental health care will place a burden on local hospital ER’s and the local police.  Why is this okay?
Please read this article and others like it so you can become proactive in your own communities.  Maybe if we start a grassroots lobby for mental health, we can effect change in our politicians.
By Jim O’Sullivan/State House News Service
GateHouse News Service
Posted Dec 01, 2009 @ 05:00 PM
Last update Dec 01, 2009 @ 05:25 PM


The state will lay off more than 300 mental health workers over the next several days, with about 300 more opting to accept voluntary retirements and layoffs as the Department of Mental Health moves forward with its closing of Westborough State Hospital.

The cuts are expected to save roughly $11 million. Officials said about 91 patients remain at Westborough, down from 152 after a task force recommended closing the facility in 2012. A 320-bed mental health hospital is slated to open in Worcester that year.

In January, the administration laid off roughly 100 Department of Mental Health (DMH) case workers and 20 administrative staffers, part of more than $9 million in budget cuts to the agency. Roughly 3,000 clients lost their case managers and were shifted to the remaining 350, aides said.

Grappling with a budget crisis that forced lawmakers and Gov. Deval Patrick to agree on $484 million in budget cuts last month, with additional reductions possible by early next year, the state has begun scaling back human services, including soldiers’ homes and physical therapy for children.

DMH Commissioner Barbara Leadholm told staff of the layoffs on Monday afternoon, calling the cuts “the necessary result of an unprecedented economic downturn that has had great impact on government services. For DMH, our sacrifice has been particularly pronounced as we downsize our inpatient system to meet our fiscal obligations and shortfalls.”

“We know these are very challenging times for all, and at the holidays, it becomes more so,” Leadholm wrote in an email.

One top lawmaker questioned whether the mental health agency was bearing a disproportionate brunt of personnel downsizing. Pointing to Patrick’s October estimate that plunging state revenues would result in up to 2,000 layoffs, Rep. Liz Malia, House chair of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, called the 600 reductions at DMH “pretty disturbing and pretty distressing.” She noted that some of the eliminated jobs were embedded in the move toward “community-based” treatment.

“This just seems like an … incredible number of cuts from one particular agency,” said Malia (D-Jamaica Plain). “It’s not going to be easy for anybody, and I think we’ll feel a ripple effect throughout the rest of state and local government.” Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Malia’s co-chair, said the timing of the layoffs was particularly damaging amid the ailing economy, “when people act on their addictions most often.”
“I think mental health workers are going to be a crucial part of getting people through the recession, and I think it’s important that services are in place,” said Flanagan (D-Leominster).
Patrick has pushed lawmakers for expanded budget-cutting authority, known as “9C” powers, to trim outside agencies directly under his control, which he said would allow him to soften the blow to human services. The Legislature has resisted.

“Without expanded 9c authority, the more and more we cut into health and human services, it just cuts deeper in the bone,” said Tobias Fisher, policy director of the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “There’s nothing left to cut.”

“This has really created a potentially dangerous system for people living within the mental health community,” Fisher said.

Copyright © // 2009 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some Rights Reserved.
Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license, except where noted.
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December 3, 2009 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , ,

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