30,000 mentally ill may be cut off in Texas

SAN ANTONIO - According to the Center for Health Care Services, the national average for mental health care spending is $103 per capita. In Texas, it is $34 and only $13 in San Antonio! Currently, only about 32 percent of the population is served. Texas is 49th in spending for mental health and substance abuse.

Yet, when the state Legislature meets in January, with a $18 billion dollar state shortfall expected, they plan to cut services deeply. They would slash care for about 30,000 mentally ill patients in Texas, and 2,400 here in the San Antonio area.

The plan would close facilities with psychiatrists in poorer areas, move them to the north and open only some medication centers.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has ordered all agencies to slash budgets by 10 percent. With only 32 percent currently being served and a 9 percent area growth rate around San Antonio, along with growing unemployment and loss of medical insurance, the future is bleak for those who need care for mental illness and substance abuse.

State hospitals plan to treat 1,400 fewer patients. According to the San Antonio Express News, 11,400 adults and 2,600 children will be affected, along with 7,000 crises services.

Where will all these people go? The streets, the local emergency rooms and the jails? This will cost the state more than if these people were given treatment, according to a study by the Perryman Group. The independent study suggests an increase in Texas funding for mental health and substance abuse, which would yield huge gains over time.

The emergency rooms are usually the last recourse when someone is in difficulty or crisis. They are totally unsuited for necessary crisis stabilization. Mentally ill patents generally wait about 26 hours for emergency treatment.

If services close down, even more people will be wandering the streets or end up in jail. It is important to remember that many people with mental illness can live, work and have normal lives with reasonable follow-up and occasional crisis treatment. This slashing of services promises no treatment and no future for 30,000 Texans.