In preparation for the upcoming Special Session of the 2015 Alabama Legislature, consider the following when thinking through funding for community mental health services:
- In 1970, there were approximately 8,000 persons confined to state mental hospitals and another 5,000 individuals resided at Partlow State School for the intellectually disabled.
- Through the advent of modern medicines, and the efforts of community mental health centers, substance abuse agencies, and agencies serving the intellectually disabled, there are only about 500 state beds for mental illness operated by the Department of Mental Health, and the state has closed all of its developmental centers.
- The average cost of a state operated mental illness bed is approximately $150,000 per year. Adjusting for population growth, without mental health centers and access to modern medicines, there would be approximately 10,000 state operated mental illness beds today at a cost of $1.5 billion dollars per year.
- The state dollar cost to fund the 500 state mental hospital beds, and to fund services for in excess of 125,000 people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and substance abuse disorders, is approximately $350 million dollars per year.
- The cost savings to Alabama citizens for community-based care, rather than reliance on state operated mental hospitals and developmental centers is in excess of $1.1 billion dollars per year.
- Since 2008, the General Fund appropriation to the Department of Mental Health has been cut by approximately 30 percent. Further cuts cannot be sustained without corresponding program service cuts.
- Cutting services to Alabama’s most vulnerable citizens will result in a loss of treatment, shelter, and necessary medicines. Increased incarceration in local jails and state prisons, recommitment to expensive state mental hospitals, and increased homelessness, are the inevitable result of further cuts in mental health funding.
By: Dr. Jim Dill, Executive Director, Alabama Council of Community Mental Health Boards