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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Judi Evans
Executive Director, NAMI Florida
Cost of Cuts to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Florida’s community mental health and substance abuse services, once again, were of prominent discussion in the state’s budget negotiations throughout the 2012 legislative session earlier this year. Advocates rallied against cuts that would cost taxpayers more by increased burdens on Florida’s criminal justice system and emergency room costs and, in the end, these services received a relatively modest reduction.

But the problem goes beyond budgetary cuts from the state. Across the board we are seeing decreased resources for patients who need treatment, including  diminished services from private health insurers who aren’t doing enough to safeguard continued access to care for mental health and substance abuse patients.

Recent changes implemented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida concerning their mental health and substance abuse services could lead to many struggling to access the care they so desperately need. Disrupting the continuum of care often has the same devastating results as budgetary cuts, including increased emergency room admissions, incarceration and homelessness.  As a large scale insurance provider, the insured that depend on their health care providers to offer comprehensive care deserve much more.

The Parity Implementation Coalition will host a field hearing in Delray Beach on October 9. Feedback and comment from local providers and consumers regarding mental health access will guide the discussion at the gathering. For more information or to attend the hearing, email [email protected].

It’s time for insurance companies, and any companies they outsource care services to, to recognize that the results of their actions extend far beyond a dollar sign. Life-saving treatment services for mental health and substance abuse must be taken seriously. Physicians and other service providers, patients and advocates, insurers – we all play a role in protecting the health of those who depend on uninterrupted access to care and services in order to live healthier, more productive lives.

Judi Evans is executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness/Florida.

Published Thursday, October 04, 2012

by Dr. Radut.