Budget Cuts to Mental Health Services: At What Cost?

December 14, 2012 Randye Kaye

I write this just a few hours after having spoken at a legislative breakfast in Connecticut, where looming budget cuts seem aimed at "saving money" by cutting funding to non-profit agencies that provide needed services to people who have disabilities or disadvantages ranging from poverty to down's syndrome to mental illness...people who, with these services, have a chance to rebuild their dignity, their potential, their futures.

Without these services? The costs are astronomical - financially as well as emotionally. Homelessness, hopelessness, aimlessness, illness relapse, even crime.

And here we are, moments later, hearing the news that another shooting has occured - this time in our own backyard, in Newtown CT. A shooter has opened fire in an elementary school. An elementary school.

Does this have anything to do with untreated mental illness? I have no idea, yet - but it is one of the first things that comes to my mind.

[caption id="attachment_1237" align="alignleft" width="120" caption="Children Led From Newtown CT School"]Sandy Hook[/caption]

It had something to do with shootings in Aurora, in Arizona, and with other reported violent incidents - practically the only press mentions about schizophrenia, the illness that also affects my son Ben.

But Ben is in treatment for schizophrenia. With upcoming budget cuts, he may lose some of that treatment. Ben, lucky for the world, has never ever been violent, even when psychotic. And in general (while we are myth-busting), those with treated mental illness are no more violent than anyone else.

But cutting or denying services that clearly provide supervision, medical treatment, supported hope in the form of housing, education, purpose and community - resulting in hope and potential? That is just plain crazy.

Mental Illness Stigma - What Do We Publicize?

Again, I don't know anything yet about the gunman. But the stigma of media coverage of past shootings, coupled with the fear that short-sighted legislators will make themselves look good by "balancing" the budget at the cost of my son's future - and the futures of all those he will be able to help in a positive way, as he now does - that results in my immediate suspicion that untreated mental illness may be part of this story.

And that is ridiculous. Funded services work - and, quite possibly, save lives even beyond the people who receive them.

As always, thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by this needless tragedy, as we await more word.

Treatment Works, but Treatment Must Continue

Let's wake up and prevent this from happening again. We need access to treatment options, more research into medical treatment, programs to build on strength and potential - and assisted outpatient treatment to ensure that those who need help can and must receive it.

Stop the madness of sacrificing futures for budget cuts that ultimately are more costly than anyone can imagine...and the stigma that surrounds receiving such help.

And, once in a while, can we spotlight the people whose lives are currently full and productive if they receive the treatment they need? Some positive role models can illustrate that treatment works, but treatment must continue. the cost of not doing so just might be unimaginable.

APA Reference
Kaye, R. (2012, December 14). Budget Cuts to Mental Health Services: At What Cost?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 18 from

Author: Randye Kaye

Kim Mitchell
December, 17 2012 at 5:34 am

I am in agreement that the budget cutbacks will be and already are affecting those who have mental illness. I am experiencing the affect of that. My state (Illinois) is out of money! The county where I lived is also out of money and I was not able to receive the free samples of medication I need for my bipolar and depression! I am not able to work and have been denied medicaid. The decision for disability is still undecided. This is very scary for me.

Jacki SeiWell
December, 17 2012 at 5:04 am

well said, though this young man's family had plenty of money for the best services, my questions are whether he was getting it or not because I've read many families are unwilling to put these children into proper homes for supervision. so many questions

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
December, 17 2012 at 5:13 am

yes, so many, many questions and issues. But if we keep the conversation going, maybe we can eventually make some "change for good". My son was in a residential group home for eight years, and it was of great help. To "qualify", though...well, let's just say it can be a long road to be "disabled enough" to secure a "bed". "Plenty of money" helps, but only so much.
thanks for your comment!

December, 16 2012 at 4:31 pm

I am depending on you all at Healthy place to keep up your advocacy for those who has these types of illnesses whatever is done in the USA affects other parts of the world. Mental health needs more resources and more socil workers more assisted living and not only in developed countries but in developing countries as well. Too many productive and intelligent people are lost to helping society because of the approach to these illnesses. Most can be productive citizens with the right kind of help and understanding

December, 16 2012 at 4:17 pm

I hope that this awful tradegy will let those in leadership will come to realize that mental illness needs the same attention as any other disease, if I had diabetes you would not ostracize me or if I had cancer you would understand well mental illness is a disease of the brain and needs every attention and even more.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
December, 16 2012 at 4:18 pm

Yes, indeed! Thank you for writing.

Leave a reply