While there is very little in the budget that directly cuts mental health services, other funding cuts are likely to lead in reductions in mental health services. Wisconsin’s public mental health system relies heavily on funding from counties - about one-third of all funds supporting services for adults with severe mental illnesses and youth with serious emotional disturbances come from county tax levy. Another 20% flows through counties as community aids and shared revenues. Additionally, counties rely on Medicaid to fund core community-based services for kids and adults.
The following proposed cuts to counties may threaten mental health services:
- $500 million unspecified GPR (over $1.2 billion all funds) savings to Medicaid
- $36.5 million reduction in shared revenue to counties.
- A 10% cut to youth aids.
- 10% cuts within the Department of Health Services will result in an additional reduction of almost $2.5million in funds that currently go to counties to support a wide variety of programs including mental health services.
- A freeze in Family Care. While people with only a mental illness are not eligible for Family Care, about half of Family Care enrollees have a mental health diagnosis. And these individuals are more likely to be in restrictive, congregate care facilities. More significantly many consumers who now reside in institutional facilities could be relocated to the community at less cost using Family Care but this will not be possible under a freeze. Additionally counties are responsible for individuals who may get identified through Crisis or Adult Protective Services and have dual disabilities or behavioral challenges. Without the ability to move these individuals to Family Care, as appropriate, the counties are at risk for costs of care.
Education: In addition, reduced funding for K-12 education cuts put special education funding at risk, and this puts kids with emotional disturbances at risk. School districts have already begun announcing cuts to pupil services staff as a result of these reductions.
Income Maintenance – Access to Benefits: The proposal to centralize and automate Income Maintenance may create barriers for people with mental illness by making it more difficult to obtain help with accessing benefits and maintaining eligibility. With a possible loss of local expertise and major reductions to opportunities for local support, some consumers may not be able to access benefits or may lose eligibility - with a loss of access to health care and ultimately higher costs.
Sample Message to Legislators: (personalize with your own story)
I am writing to express my concern about the threat to public mental health services due to the impact of budget cuts on counties and schools. Because of the significant role that counties play in administering mental health services cuts to shared revenues, youth aids, the Family Care freeze and income maintenance changes all threaten mental health services as counties seek to absorb such cuts. Unspecified changes to Medicaid to realize $500 million in savings could make the situation worse. If counties are forced to cut community based mental health services, there will be significant human and fiscal cost as it will result in an even higher utilization of costly and traumatizing crisis and inpatient services - and the corrections system
Pupil services staff cuts in response to the budget could decrease the limited ability of schools to meet the needs of students with disabilities, including those with emotional disturbances. This group is one that is already vulnerable, being less likely to graduate from high school than any other disability group.
The Governor clearly intended that reductions in aids to counties and schools would be offset by savings from collective bargaining changes. But it is now clear that this will not be the case. We ask the Legislature, therefore, to consider how they can hold local entities harmless so as not to jeopardize services to people with disabilities
Sign with your name and home address
Call or write your state senator and assembly representative
- If you do not know who your state legislators are, see “Who Are My Legislators?” at http://www.legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/waml/waml.aspx.
Contact members of the Joint Finance Committee
- Email your comments to the committee at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- address comments to individual members:
- Send by US mail to: Joe Malkasian, Room 305 East, State Capitol,Madison, WI 53703
- Check with the paper about acceptable length of letters.
- Include some of the facts above but tell your story; how might these cuts affect you or those you love.