StateImpact Idaho is beginning to look at the effects of the $34 million Medicaid cut that the Idaho Legislature passed last session. Related to that, a new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) tallies the state-by-state changes in general fund appropriations for state mental health agencies since 2009. According to the report, Idaho is among the ten states that have made the greatest cuts, by percentage, since that year.
As advocates for people with mental illness will point out, Idaho hasn’t had a great track record of funding services for the state’s mentally ill. “I think the shocking part is we spend $44 per capita on mental health, and the national average is $122. So we’re about a third of the national average,” said Doug McKnight, president of the Idaho chapter of NAMI. Moreover, Idaho remains the only state without a local suicide prevention hotline. “I think that people need to say, ‘What should we be doing for the mentally ill?’” McKnight said. “These people didn’t choose mental illness. We as advocates need to bring it forward and say, ‘These people are vulnerable and need support.’”
Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan says budget cuts have forced clinician layoffs. He says the department has tried to shift Medicaid-eligible people who were receiving state services into the Medicaid system, while continuing to provide care to those who have no other options.