Despite the obvious need for behavioral health services, Governor Patrick proposed cutting funds for successful programs. If implemented, his cuts to DMH would force 250 adults and 215 kids and families to lose services that enable them to live independently in their homes and communities. Hundreds of families whose stability is tied to these services would be thrown into turmoil.
Another 100 individuals currently languish in DMH inpatient facilities, although they have been deemed “discharge ready.” But the state does not have sufficient funds to provide community placements.
In the area of addiction services, the governor proposed cutting $3 million from the BSAS and $300,000 from the successful jail diversion program for individuals addicted to opiates.
The lack of access to services shows up most dramatically in the field of addiction treatment. While 7.7 percent of residents aged 21 and older reported heavy alcohol use within the prior month, 95.8 percent did not receive treatment for alcohol abuse.
A snapshot of a single day helps illustrate the demand for addiction services.
On a single day in 2012, 45,727 people were in treatment for substance use in Massachusetts. Forty-eight percent were being treated for drug use only, but 14.2 percent reported treatment for alcohol use only, and 37.2 percent received treatment for both drugs and alcohol use.
Clearly, there is a gap between available funds and the need for services. But that frayed safety net has ensnared huge numbers of men, women and children who can be reached and helped with a balanced approach to budgeting at the state level.
It’s up to the Legislature to reverse Governor Patrick’s cuts and demonstrate Massachusetts’ commitment to the individuals and families who rely each day on the caregivers, counselors and community-based programs that enable them to live healthy, productive lives.
Cynthia R. H. King
Director of human resources
Institute for Health and Recovery
Editor’s note: The author is a resident of Danvers.