As many of you know, State Operated Services has been up for redesign. In our 2010 Legislative report, the Mental Health Legislative Network asked that whatever plan came out of that process be judged on how well it reflected the input of consumers and advocates. We believe that the people who are most affected by services changes and cuts are the people who are currently using those services.
Now that the report is out, we are greatly disappointed. We were aware that with the budget cut, SOS was going to reduce services and we had made some recommendations as to what we thought could be done. However, the deeper issue is that we have noticed community input is going unheard. We came to the table in good faith, participating in the community listening sessions held around the state. But we do not see that reflected in these changes. As it stands, it appears that the proposal leads us to more restrictive settings and services and away from community based models. Recovery is spoken of as a goal, but the spending looks like confinement and triage.
We will be asking tough questions about how this proposal was formed, and why it looks so different from the trajectory we have been on towards more independence and crisis management, instead of bringing back a state hospital system.
Similarly, a deal for GAMC was announced last Friday. The text of the bill was not released until Wednesday night, and many things had changed by then. For one, Adult Mental Health grants were back in the bill as a funding source. We strongly oppose reductions in these services as a funding mechanism for other programs, but are not optimistic. These grants have already been reduced by unallotment and may see further reductions in the omnibus budget.
We are not pleased with many aspects of this bill. There is significant concern that this new model of care will not be ready by June 1, and that is largely unproven for this population.
This has become the session of bad negotiation. There appears to be a great deal of horse trading going on, but the consistent factors have been an unwillingness to consider revenue, repeated cuts to critical services, and the direction of these cuts coming from the Governor and DHS alone.
Right now, MHAM is going back out to the community, and especially to Local Advisory Councils and talking about what services are most important and how these changes may affect people. We hope to mobilize and inform more consumers so that they can be at the table when these deals are made. It’s critical that we start now, even against these headwinds. Grassroots take time to grow, and we will continue working with our fellow advocates and consumers at the Capitol, trying to be heard.