WATCH 2011 Annual Meeting All-Access Right Here

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Assembly Urges Restoration of State Funding

By Laurence H. Miller, M.D.
Assembly Representative, Arkansas
Chair, Assembly Committee on Public and Community Psychiatry
Member, Council on Healthcare Systems and Financing

The Assembly placed Action Paper 12.D, “Restoring State Department of Mental Health Funding,” on the consent calendar. The consent calendar is a mechanism used by many legislative bodies, including the APA Assembly, to save time by approving several actions at once. Placement on the consent calendar does not imply that an issue is not of prime interest or importance, but rather that it is perceived to be non-controversial, routine for information (perhaps to another component) or an administrative matter.

This Action Paper, authored by Stephen McLeod-Bryant, M.D., and Rahn Bailey, M.D., both of whom are Representatives of the Caucus of Black Psychiatrists. Dr. McLeod-Bryan, lead author, is from South Carolina where he previously served as medical director for the Department of Mental Health.

His Action Paper states:

“Whereas South Carolina has experienced a $6 million reduction in legislative appropriations for its Department of Mental Health while overall state appropriations have increased $777 million over the past decade…

“Whereas, this loss of funding has resulted in removal of inpatient psychiatric beds, closure of outpatient mental health clinics and layoffs of clinical mental health professionals exacerbating patient lengths of stay in emergency rooms, reducing access to evidenced-based psychosocial treatments and making more onerous the caseloads of psychiatrists treating the most persistently, seriously psychiatrically ill….

“Be it resolved that the Council of Healthcare Systems and Financing, in concert with the Assembly Committee of Public and Community Psychiatry, recommend a successful strategy, including consideration of legal action, to restore appropriate legislative funding of state department mental health budgets.”

This is a significant Action Paper since it is a crucial time for all state mental health authorities regarding budget cuts due to the downturn in the economy. The impact on patient care has been devastating with closure of many programs and layoffs of staff leaving many of the most seriously psychiatrically ill patients without the services needed to maintain recovery.

The APA, the professional organization for over 37,000 psychiatrists, is dedicated to improving patient care and, as such, has embraced this issue directly. All sectors of the APA will collaborate in developing a workplan. This will include the Council of Healthcare Systems and Financing, the Assembly Committee of Public and Community Psychiatry and the Transformational Leadership in Psychiatry program. We will also reach out to the American Association of Community Psychiatrists and the Medical Directors Council of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) in our efforts to develop strategies to protect the needs of our patients.

The Council of Healthcare Systems and Financing and the Assembly Committee of Public and Community Psychiatry have already developed a toolkit for state mental health associations to use in addressing the budget issues locally. All district branches have received this toolkit and many have begun to use it in addressing the impact of budget reductions.

District Branch presidents-elect will receive a brief presentation on these issues and the toolkit during their orientation session at the APA Annual Meeting to encourage newly elected DB leadership to embrace the work so far the APA leadership.

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