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Mental Health Service Cuts Could Prove Deadly

Federal efforts to stem the state-level cuts and ensure sufficient Medicaid funds for behavioral health treatment must be considered a basic public-safety investment.

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Prior to the shooting rampage at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater earlier this month, the accused gunman sent a journal—replete with detailed drawings of his plans for the deadly assault—to a University of Colorado psychiatrist who he was seeing. The fact that the Aurora shooting suspect was in touch with a medical professional is an indication that he fits the profile of a spree killer. Typically mentally disturbed individuals, spree killers most often plan their attacks and, as a rule, generally tell someone about their plans—in many cases, a mental health professional. Unfortunately, federal and state budget cuts mean that individuals with mental illness will find that help is increasingly harder to come by.

Between 2009 and 2011, states cumulatively cut more than $1.8 billion from their budgets for mental health services, according to a report released in 2011 by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. At least two-thirds of states significantly slashed spending for services for children and adults living with mental illness.

Failing to appropriately treat and care for mentally ill Americans, especially young adults, puts us all at risk. Federal efforts to stem the state-level cuts and ensure sufficient Medicaid funds for behavioral health treatment must be considered a basic public-safety investment.

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