Anyone who needs convincing that the nation's mental health infrastructure is being cut to ribbons need only search the headlines of local newspapers. From nearly every region, the papers report on the shutdown of community clinics and inpatient hospitals, sweeping Medicaid budget cuts, the pink-slipping of psychiatrists, and the distress of patients and their families.
The following items, gathered from newspapers in the first 2 months of 2002, give just a glimpse of a system in free fall:
* Maryland: The Old Line State seems to be hardest hit by clinic closures in recent months, with 11 community mental health centers closing during the past year. Most recently, Montgomery County, one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, closed the doors to three of its community clinics, leaving roughly 3,400 patients without services, according to The Washington Post. The county's remaining community care sites operate at a loss, unable to cover costs.
* Michigan: Psychiatric residency training at Wayne State and Michigan State universities may soon be a memory, jeopardized by massive state budget cuts of nearly $450 million. Wayne State faces cuts of $1.5 million, and MSU faces a $500,000 reduction per year. But the impact could be even greater, since the programs depend on federal matches for state dollars. The schools themselves ponied up emergency funds to float the programs until current residents complete training. But, according to the Detroit Free Press, the long term future of the programs is in doubt.
* Virginia: In an effort to address a $3 billion budget shortfall over the next 3 years, Gov. Mark Warner has proposed massive cuts in mental health and other health services; as much as $5.1 million will be cut from the current budget, while cuts of $11.9 million for 2003 and $13.6 million for 2004 are planned. As many as 13,000 individuals with debilitating mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, or substance abuse problems could lose services next year, reports The Washington Post.
* South Carolina: Clinics are reeling from Department of Mental …