Increases in Mental Health Admissions Means CT Should Increase, Not Decrease Resources

A recent report from the state health department shows that mental health was the main cause for hospitalizations in Connecticut in 2012. There was substantial growth in the number of people between the ages of 5 and 44 hospitalized for mental health issues. The report, titled as the Statewide Health Care Facilities and Services Plan, specified that from 2009 to 2013, 1 million of the 8 million visits to emergency rooms were mental health related. Of this 1 million, around one-third of the patients required a stay at the hospital. Similarly, for a period from 2010 to 2014, admissions for patients with a behavioral health diagnosis increased by 31 percent. The report drew no conclusions as to why there has been an increase in mental health admissions. The Hartford Courant pitched this question to experts, who pointed to several potential reasons for the increase. Some of the main reasons are the expansion of Medicare, the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, which brought more attention to behavioral health issues.

The uptick in admissions for mental health issues can be considered both a bad and good turn of events. The increase in admissions is good in the sense that more people who need help are getting help, but also bad because it shows increasing numbers of people that need help. Resources are strained, and in some cases, non-existent. It is easy to say that this problem can be fixed with better access to care and better screening, but what that really translates to is a need for a whole lot of money. Yet instead of increasing funding, Connecticut plans to cut funding. Gov. Dannel Malloy had proposed a $25.5 million reduction in grant funding for community mental health services. Mental health advocates claim that there is up to $160 million in cuts planned for mental health services.

This issue is also emotionally charged. Families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims have been vocal in their criticisms of the proposed cuts. At least one member of the Sandy Hook Commission, the advisory panel created in the wake of the 2012 shooting, has also criticized the proposed budget. The state has responded by saying that the budget for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) is planned to increase by $22.8 million, mostly to keep pace with a growing number of Medicaid cases. However, the cuts far outweigh the increase in DMHAS funding, resulting in a net loss of resources for the growing number of people who require treatment.

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