Cuts in mental health services show up as outrageously high and unnecessary costs that are borne by a broad segment of society.
Mental health hospital beds offering long-term care have suffered reductions, and so have community mental health centers. Wyandot Inc. announced last week that revenue losses and Medicaid reimbursement cuts will result in seven full-time positions and 12 part-time positions being eliminated and 18 other job vacancies going unfilled.
The agency, which provides counseling, crisis intervention and housing, will have to concentrate services on more serious mental health needs. That will hurt 600 to 700 adults of the more than 4,500 it serves and 200 to 250 children of the 3,000 it serves.
Wyandot Inc. is just one of many community mental health agencies undergoing similar service cutbacks because of ongoing budget reductions.
The trend of treating only people with more severe cases of mental illness also means that when people are assisted they are in worse shape, requiring more costly help. Having to do more with less also negatively affects the mental health professionals who suffer burnout, morale problems and agencies then have to contend with high job turnover rates.
These have been decades-old trends because of declining mental health services, gravely affecting people and communities.
The cuts have been so severe and have occurred for so long — dating back to the Reagan administration in the early 1980s — that jails and prisons for years now have served as the nation’s largest mental health providers with police arresting people suffering mental illness.
For years, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Kansas City had been a wonderful resource in this region. It advocated for families needing help with loved ones who are mentally ill and it started and supported the successful crisis intervention team programs for area police departments.
But the Kansas City area alliance shut down in May after 36 years because of difficulties over funding and staffing to keep up with the increasing demands and dwindling resources.
For the sake of people living with mental illness, their families, and the safety of police and other emergency responders, money has to be put back into mental health services.
Until that happens, more tragedies will occur with society picking up the unnecessary and growing costs.