KCUR News
3:30 pm
Tue November 10, 2009

Mental Health Cuts Hit Uninsured

Kansas City, MO – Missouri recently announced it's cutting $3 million from the Department of Mental Health and will no longer fund services for new patients that don't have Medicaid.

Area mental health organizations say the change will make it a lot harder for people without health coverage to get needed care.

Alan Flory is president of Rediscover, a local mental health center. He says the number of uninsured people getting services there has gone up by nearly 50 percent in the past year.

Waiting lists, he says, are growing.

Flory says the state's decision to no longer fund services for new, non-Medicaid patients means that community centers like Rediscover will have to turn away an increasing number of people who can't afford treatment on their own.

"And as for the people we turn away, we're usually their last resort," he said. "Their only other choice is to end up homeless, in jails, or in hospital emergency rooms and uninsured, and basically a cost to society."

Flory says the changes come during an already difficult period. Area mental health centers are bracing for a ten percent reduction in county funding next year due to declining revenues.

The Department of Mental Health says there will be some exemptions to the new rule, like for people with serious mental illnesses coming out of jail.

The agency also says there's no easy solution to the state's most recent $200 million budget shortfall.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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