It seems that administrating mental health services in the state of California could be enough to drive you mad. Speculation surrounding Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for next fiscal year points to yet another salvo of hits to mental health services.
One of Schwarzenegger’s proposals calls for diverting $452 million away from MHSA programs for two years. The Governator also proposes to divert another $847 million away from MHSA programs in FY 2010-11, if the state does not recover $6.9 billion in reimbursements Schwarzenegger thinks California is owed by the feds for what he thinks were unfunded mandates the state paid for out of its own pocket.
Indications coming from both Sacramento and Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., point to the request for reimbursements most likely being denied outright. In anticipation of that very real possibility, during a Feb. 2 Budget Committee hearing, California Mental Health Directors Association (CMHDA) Executive Director Patricia Ryan read lawmakers the contents of a Jan. 25 memo that expressed the organization’s opposition to the Governor’s January budget proposal items which would divert Mental Health Services Act funding.
Ryan’s memo strongly objected to what CMHDA said are proposals that would almost entirely eliminate state funding for the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program, and significantly reduce state funding for the Medi-Cal Mental Health Managed Care program. “The Administration proposes to compensate for its abandonment of the state’s investment in mental health services by diverting $452 million a year for two years away from the voter-passed Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). In order to do this, the Governor acknowledges that it will require passage of a voter initiative,” Ryan stated.
Last year, California voters shot down an almost identical proposal in the May 2009 special election. Prop 1E would have diverted $226 million annually for two years from the MHSA to EPSDT.
“The Governor’s redundant proposal not only ignores voters’ recent declaration, but would ask them to nearly double the funds raided from MHSA programs. This proposal would have dire consequences on local communities that should be fully understood by legislative leaders, the Administration, and the public,” Ryan said.
CMHDA estimates that a half-billion dollars in federal Medicaid funds would be lost. “By redirecting $452 million in MHSA funds to programs otherwise funded by the state, this proposal would substantially reduce the funds eligible to be used to draw down federal matching funds,” according to the memo.
“Conservatively, at least $250 million in federal funding for the next two fiscal years,” Ryan said. She also pointed to youth programs that have generated improved school figures and adult programs that have lowered prison incarceration, hospitalization and homelessness rates. Ryan added that access to mental health assistance for returning Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans would also inevitably be curtailed.
Locally, Mono County’s Mental Health Services Director Ann Gimpel has said the department, already reeling from hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding cuts from the last state budget debacle, is already bracing for another round of dour news in the governor’s FY 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 proposed budgets.