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Mental health care funding should not be cut

March 23, 2011 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated March 22, 2011 at 10:23 p.m.


Editor, the Advocate:

I am writing in response to the Online Poll of the Week, "Do you think the Legislature Should Cut Funding to Mental Health Care?"

First, let me say that I certainly do not believe the Texas Legislature should cut funding to mental health care, and the following are some solid reasons for why:

In a March report presented to the Texas Conference of Urban Counties and prepared by Health Management Associates, a national health research and consulting company, the public mental health system in Texas is best described as a series of safety nets, with community-based mental health services as the first and most critical layer of the safety net. In Victoria and the Crossroads Region, Gulf Bend Center is that first layer, the community-based provider of mental health care.

State mental hospitals make up the next layer. San Antonio State Hospital is the primary state mental health facility servicing the Crossroads Region. These two layers of the safety net are followed by services usually supported by local governments, such as county hospital and hospital district emergency rooms and county jails.

Community-based services offer the most cost-effective care within the public mental health system. The average per day cost of community-based services is $12 for adults and $13 for children, as compared to $401 for a state hospital bed day, $137 for a jail bed day for an inmate with mental illness, and $986 for an emergency room visit.

If enacted, the budget cuts proposed for community-based services for the biennium 2012-2013 will shift costs to state hospital budgets, county jails and local hospitals. Because the state hospital system is currently over capacity, the impact of costs will be borne by local governments - in other words, to us the local taxpayers.

An average state hospital length of stay is 29 days at a cost of $11,629.

An average jail stay is 80 days for a person with mental illness at a cost of $10,960.

Average costs to serve adults and children with serious mental illness is $12-$13 per day of outpatient care respectively.

Texas ranks 50th among all states in the nation in spending on mental health care. Proposed reductions to mental health services in Texas will undermine the public mental health system.

It is pretty obvious where Texas should be investing its dollars today and in the future.

Don Polzin, executive director, Gulf Bend Center

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