GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several elected officials have called for stronger mental health programs in the wake of Wednesday’s school shooting in Florida, but local agencies have dealt with nothing but cuts in recent years.
“We have approximately a $12 million budget deficit this year,” Scott Gilman, CEO of Network 180, told 24 Hour News 8 Friday. “We continue to struggle with getting the resources that are appropriated down through the red tape to the individuals that need the care.”
Most recently, Network 180 has made $2 million in cuts to their staff in addition to other service cuts.
They aren’t the only ones struggling. Ottawa County’s Community Mental Health has lost millions in revenue since 2014. In 2016, Ottawa County passed a millage to offset those losses and it generates about $3.2 million a year.
A community-based approach to funding is something Gilman is considering in Kent County.
“We haven’t started anything official,” Gilman said. “That’s something that we’re going to have to talk about as a community as we continue to see dwindling resources at both the federal and state level. I think we need to figure out as a community if mental health is going to be our priority.”
As for the national debate surrounding mental health and mass shootings, Gilman said it’s not an easy fix.
“It’s very disturbing when they generalize,” he explained. “Normally, people involved in these sorts of events haven’t been diagnosed. They haven’t been in the system. What’s disappointing, though, is he stigma that gets attached to mental health because that keeps people from getting treatment.”
PUBLIC FUNDING SURROUNDING MENTAL HEALTH, SCHOOL SAFETY
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump gave somber remarks about the Florida shooting, saying he’s committed to working with leaders to keep kids safe in schools.
A few days before that, though, he unveiled his 2019 proposed budget. It calls for more cuts to mental health and school safety.
According to his proposal, The U.S. Department of Education funding for “school safety national activities” would decrease from an estimated $65 million in 2018 to a proposed $43 million in 2019.
Additionally, the budget proposes a 16 percent cut overall to the two programs that help states improve their reporting to the national database for background checks in gun sales.
The National Criminal Records History Improvement Program and the NICS Act Record Improvement Program are currently budgeted at $73 million, but the 2019 proposal calls for $61 million.
The National Institute of Mental Health could also see federal cuts. In 2017, $1.6 million was spent on the institute.
About the same is estimated for 2018, but the 2019 proposal only allocates $1.1 million.
The institute is the largest scientific organization in the world focused on understanding treatment and prevention of disorders and the overall promotion of health.
Another area expecting an overhaul in funding is Medicaid, which is one of the main sources of public funding for mental health agencies.
Network 180 CEO Scott Gilman said they’ve already seen $97 million in losses in the past two years because of changes to how people can enroll for benefits under the Affordable Care Act.
Previously, Network 180 would receive $270 per Medicaid recipient per month, but many of those people have now signed up for coverage under Healthy Michigan – the state’s Medicaid expansion program.
“It’s a lot easier to get. You just have to pass an income test… but the per-member, per-month that we receive for that is a lot lower. More like $27-30 a month,” Gilman explained.
As he focuses on tackling their budget concerns, he hopes the public recognizes the importance of knowing how to respond to a mental health crisis.
“Our goal is that everybody in the United States would be trained to deal with a mental health crisis as they are with somebody who falls on the floor with a heart attack,” Gilman said. “You don’t have to be a physician to call 911 and you don’t have to be a psychiatrist to understand mental health first aid.”