Mental health services bear brunt of cuts again

March 20, 2011

Once again the Maryland House of Delegates appears poised to allot cuts to public mental health funding that are far more severe than reductions to any other health or disability area in the state budget, a somewhat astounding development, given that the mental health system will be serving 40 percent more people in the upcoming year than it did four years ago, while funding for care has risen just 17 percent.

Appropriations Committee members responsible for the cuts to residential services for children with the most severe illnesses tell us they are simply following direction from the state agency overseeing care, which supports a transition to community over institutional care, a policy direction that is strongly supported by providers, families and advocates alike.

But that is not what these elected officials did. Instead, they cut the residential funds and left little behind to provide the community services that children will need. My heart goes out to families who are desperately searching for effective care and answers for children with serious mental illnesses. The door to a future may soon be shut even further, their desperation a notch higher. With reversal of the committee action a remote possibility on the House floor, we can only hope that the Senate chooses to reject the House's ill advised and cold hearted actions affecting some of our most vulnerable young citizens.

Linda Raines, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Mental Health Association of Maryland.

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