Fewer states have increased funding for mental health services in the past year despite increased attention to the relationship between the lack of such services and ongoing occurrences of violent shootings, according to a new report.
The school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 brought calls for tougher gun legislation as well as a greater focus on funding for mental health services.
But despite that event, as well as the more than 20 school shootings since, only 27 states and the District of Columbia increased funding for mental health services in 2014, according to a report released this month by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
By comparison, 37 states and the District of Columbia increased mental health budgets in 2013.
Overall state spending on mental health services has remained below what it was in 2009 before the start of the recession. State mental health budgets were cut by more than $4 billion from 2009 to 2012, while the number of inpatient psychiatric beds decreased by more than 3,200 during that time.
Seven states decreased their mental health budgets in 2014 while eight kept funding level comparable with 2013. The report found that while 10 states are expected to decrease funding in 2015, 29 states and the District of Columbia are expected to increase their mental health budgets next year.
“The way is open to shape the mental health system of the future,” the report concluded. “States that engage in thoughtful planning, targeted investment, faithful implementation and robust monitoring will seize current opportunities and set a sustainable course.”
The report highlights the vital role Medicaid expansion plays in providing access to behavioral health services. An estimated 6.7 million uninsured Americans with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders are eligible for Medicaid coverage. A total of 27 states and the District of Columbia have opted to expand Medicaid to cover adults earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, but more than half of those who would benefit from the program live in states that have yet to expand.
Six states—Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina and Wyoming—cut spending on mental health services in both 2013 and 2014. Four states—Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan and Rhode Island—increased funding in 2013 but cut it for 2014.
The report did recognize several states, including Minnesota, Virginia and Wisconsin, as leaders for adopting measures that could be models for the rest of the country. In Virginia, more than $54 million was allocated to strengthen hospitals and crisis services, as well as intensive community services and tele-psychiatry capabilities.
Attention on mental illness has increased in light of the Sandy Hook school shooting and the suicide of actor Robin Williams this year. The rate of suicide has increased since 2005, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
After seeing a drop in the rate from 112.5 per 100,000 in 1986 to 10.4 in 2000, the rate rose back to 12.5 deaths per 100,000 by 2012.
“Public awareness of mental health concerns has not diminished,” said Mary Giliberti, NAMI executive director, in a statement. “Unfortunately, people sometimes forget that tragedies are happening every day.”
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