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Tennessee Federal Medicaid Funds to Drop $239 Million

By Jeaneane Payne

Tennessee is expected to have a substantial loss of Medicaid Funds next year. In 2009 state mental health expenditures were $166.2 million but will fall to $149.2 million in 2011, a $16.8 million cut.

The number of people served in state hospitals in Tennessee in 2007 were 7,075 but dropped to 3,600 in 2009.

The number of people served by the State Mental Health Authority was 170,727 in 2007 and rose to 294,344 in 2009.

Tennessee has a projected loss of federal Medicaid funds by 2012 in the amount of $239 million.

One in 17 people in America lives with a serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder. About one in 10 children live with a serious mental disorder. In recent years, the worst recession in the U.S. since the Great Depression has dramatically impacted an already inadequate public mental health system.

Medicaid funding of mental health services is also potentially on the chopping block in 2011. The temporary increase in federal funding of Medicaid through the stimulus package will end on June 30, 2011. Medicaid is the most important source of funding of public mental health services for youth and adults, leaving people with mental illness facing the real threat of being cut off from life-saving services.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Communities pay a high price for cuts of this magnitude. Rather than saving states and communities money, these cuts to services simply shift financial responsibility to emergency rooms, community hospitals, law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities and homeless shelters.

Massive cuts to mental health services also potentially impact public safety. As a whole, people living with serious mental illness are no more violent than the rest of the population. In fact, it is well documented that these individuals are far more frequently the victims of violence than the perpetrators of violent acts.

Unfortunately, the public often focuses on mental illness only when tragedies of the magnitude of Tucson or Virginia Tech occur. However, less visible tragedies take place every day in our communities —- suicides, homelessness, arrests, incarceration, school drop-out, and more. These personal tragedies also occur because of our failure to provide access to effective mental health services and supports."

Published March 9, 2011

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