Battle Over Medicaid Block Grants Could Have Far-Reaching Impact
Kaiserlogo.jpeg Medicaid, part of the social contract to make sure that people with health needs are not abandoned, has been discussed as a candidate for block grants to states. Proposals stem from a need to make spending more efficient and effective, and to curb entitlements. The implications for people with a psychiatric diagnosis, or other chronic health needs, could be profound. This article by Kaiser Health News outlines how the Republican party proposals for health and budget reforms enlist block grants, first used by Pres. Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. And what the political debate implies. []
Deep Medicaid cuts for mental health
Doctors, patients, nursing homes, the young, the elderly, and diabetics who already own one pair of shoes will take hits from Medicaid cuts. []
How The Health Reform Game Has Changed
Enthusiasts of health reform should not overlook the power of interest groups, or of the states, to influence next steps. "Many of the key implementation decisions won't be made at the federal level because insurance is regulated to a large extent by states," write economists Austin Frakt and Aaron Carroll for Kaiser Health News. []
As economy takes toll, mental health budgets shrink
Writing in, staff writer Christine Vestal assesses how states have met mental health budgets and what this means for people needing psychiatric services in today's fiscal crisis. "The drop-off is translating into a reduction in the number of psychiatric hospital beds, as well as fewer services for mental health emegencies and longer waiting lists for housing," says Vestal. . . []
More children in Pennsylvania had access to mental health care than in any other state.
Click here to find your state. The average nationwide was 60 percent, with a low of 42 percent in Texas and a high of 82 percent in Pennsylvania. The 2007 statistics were compiled by the National Survey of Children's Health. ... []
State budget fixes
. . .some will hurt more than others []
NAMI scores states
The nation's adult mental health system is a mess, according to a report released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. (NAMI) which released its scorecard.Each of the 50 states were examined on 82 targets such as evidence-based practices or the promotion of consumer-run programs. These were among the benchmarks established by the 2003 New Freedom Commission. No state received the highest grade of "A" for its overall work and the advocacy organization also assessed the strengths and "urgent needs"... []
Georgia slashes budget
Facing deficits, states cut health budgets
Numerous states have announced cuts to mental health programs, many of which are funded by Medicaid. Maine is asking for a $25 enrollment fee, Florida froze rates to nursing homes, and California reduced its reimbursement rate for a 15-minute physician visit to $21.60, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Earlier this week New York cut local assistance by six percent, a blow to funding which has been the "lifeblood for many individuals with psychiatric disabilities in the community," said the Mental... []
Focusing on young adult needs
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR, picture) and Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) led their respective chambers in drafting legislation to protect young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 with a serious mental health disorder. The goal for an estimated 2.4 million people living in the community is to help them build "the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to ensure their healthy transition to successful adult roles and responsibilities." Last week a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, Young Adults with... []
Georgia plagiarizes mental health report
North Carolina budget for mental health
North Carolina’s Gov. Mike Easley seeks additional money to expand services and psychiatric staff following last year’s failed and heavily criticized reform privatizing services. A tax on cigarettes would generate the $68 million requested in a proposed budget of $21.5 billion. North Carolina ranks 43rd in per capita spending on mental health. ... []
All hail a muscular press
Hail a muscular press []
Katrina's legacy: outpatient commitment?
Will the legacy of Hurricane Katrina become a mandate for involuntary outpatient commitment? According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune: "Mandating treatment -- and checking on patients to ensure they are complying with court orders -- would require a massive expansion of the outpatient services available in the New Orleans area, which have been significantly lacking since Hurricane Katrina" An infusion of $26 million was announced last month, and one official said the creation of new services might be able to... []
Iowa reviews Medicaid meds
The Iowa legislature is reviewing its Medicaid preferred drug list for psychiatric drugs as a budgetary measure estimated to trim $1.7 million from an overall medication budget of $234 million. Advocates expressed alarm should a one-size-fits-all policy, requiring prior authorization and generic substitutes, become the mandate where fine tuning is necessary. ... []
Fiscal woes confusing states
Threatened federal cuts and an economic downturn are stressing states already coping with mounting health related expenses. Yesterday New Jersey's governor announced intentions to expand insurance coverage, similar to Mass., but others are scaling back. And some, such as Ohio, remain resolute that the federal government was not entitled to deny them expansion of programs such as SCHIP at the same time plans are underway to close a mental health facility and save $9 million. In New York, according to... []
Conn. discusses insurance limits
The Conn. legislature rejected a bill to restrict insurance coverage for psychologists and social workers. But a threat to non-medical providers still exists in a bill allowing insurance companies to exclude up to five mandates. A spokesperson from the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Stephen Karp, worries that mental health coverage would be among those excluded. ... []
Mental health ombudsman
Georgia is proposing a mental health ombudsman attached to the governor’s office of consumer affairs and not to the mental health division it is supposed to investigate. Reports of patient abuse and deaths have led to federal investigations in Georgia, Del. and North Carolina. ... []
North Carolina questions services
North Carolina is learning that many private companies hired to deliver mental health community support services have dubious practices including preying on the poor, charging excessive fees, and at least $4.2 million in questionable Medicaid charges. The North Carolina News Observer reports that during one three-month period in 2006, “277 companies received taxpayer money to provide community support.” One of them, Dominion Healthcare Services, charged $61 an hour to take clients to charities for free clothes. Aggressive canvassing techniques in... []
Alarming cuts in Cal.
Cost-cutting in Sonoma County, California, will close an acute unit of Santa Rosa Community Hospital, plus two off-site units, and lay off 212 people. This comes in the midst of proposed budget slashing for health and education ... []
Michigan lacks will not money
More than three years after a blue-ribbon panel recommended comprehensive and sweeping changes to mental health programs, Michigan has barely followed up on 90 percent of them. An editorial in the Pontiac Oakland Press attributes the failures to lack of political will and rancor rather than fiscal constraints. ... []
Update: Va. pol weighs in to expand service
A weekend editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, by House of Delegate Representative Jennifer McClellan, urged the General Assembly not to make hasty decisions for long-term solutions to the mental health crisis in Virginia. Structural, financial, personnel, and other residual needs were under discussion before Virginia Tech renewed attention, adding to the intensity of the debate. The General Assembly meets biannually for 60 days, and McLellan (D) represents the 71st Dsitrict. A number of controversial bills for involuntary commitment have diverted... []
Activisits sue Schwarzenegger
Foster kids over-medicated
Foster kids in Oregon are prescribed psychiatric medicines nearly four times more often than other children according to a three-part investigative report by The Oregonian. The pattern can be traced to a system with incentives paying foster families twice as much ($600 per month) for taking kids with "special needs" and one that failed to monitor. Foster parents alone can decide to place the children on psychotropic medications, no independent tracking mechanism exists, and only one nurse reviews prescriptions for... []
Suicide, depression and insurance: states differ
Depression and suicide vary considerably state to state, according to a study released by Mental Health America. But those with barriers to insurance and treatment have higher rates than those with easy access and services. Depression and suicide are closely linked. Thirty thousand people take their own lives each year and suicide is the third leading cause of death for those 15-24 years old. Ranking America's Mental Health was built on state and federal data sets, and individual responses for... []

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