Op-Ed: Proposed Rauner Budget Fails to Meet Mental Health, Addiction Health Care Needs

OP-ED: Illinois has a staggering behavioral healthcare challenge and it needs a budget to meet that challenge.

Recent data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration underscores the need for a strong, well-funded community-based system of addiction and mental health services in Illinois.

Between 2010 and 2014, the behavioral healthcare challenges, such as depression, suicide risk, drug and/or alcohol abuse, for Illinois men, women, and children have mounted.

  • About 105,000 adolescents’ ages 12-17 report having at least one major depressive episode, while only 38% received treatment for their depression.
  • 355,000 adults 18 and over report ‘serious thoughts of suicide’; while ~363,000 qualified for a Serious Mental Illness (SMI) diagnosis.
  • Of the 1.53 million Illinois adults having ‘any mental illness’ (AMI) in the previous year, more than 55% did not receive mental health treatment.
  • Similarly, only 11.7% of the estimated 267,000 individuals 12 and older dependent on or abusing illicit drugs received treatment for their substance use disorder.

While behavioral problems and needs are clear, funding for addiction and mental illness prevention and treatment has been continually reduced by the Illinois General Assembly. In the past five years, the legislature has slashed state funding for addiction prevention, cut addiction treatment by 40% and mental health treatment by nearly 25%.

Meanwhile, an epidemic of heroin and non-medical use of prescription drugs has exploded across the state, forcing Illinois’ jails and correctional centers to become ill-equipped triage centers for individuals with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has repeatedly stated that the Cook County Jail is now the ‘largest mental health institution in the country’, and a majority of the individuals under his care are also there as a result of untreated addiction.

Over the past several years, Illinois has witnessed an expansion of mental health and addiction parity, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and a shift from state General Revenue Funds and Medicaid funding to a system of Managed Care funding, all of which has been implemented by providers in the trenches. At the same time, providers have borne uncompensated, additional expenses associated with implementation of Electronic Health Records and electronic billing. These changes have occurred while the legislature has almost annually imposed funding reductions on community providers, refused to raise historically low reimbursement rates, and left unresolved a Fiscal Year 2016 budget impasse that threatens to undermine our system of community-based care at its core.

While the staggering challenges to Illinois behavioral healthcare community providers continue to bear down, the policy prescription in the form of Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed FY 2017 falls, let us say, short. In fact, the Governor’s budget proposal continues to move Illinois in the wrong direction, threatening to decimate the already-weakened safety net for Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.

At a time when the need to prioritize state dollars for the maximum return on investment, reductions to the community behavioral health system are short-sighted and ill-conceived.

Data from national studies have concluded that addiction and mental health treatment not only produces measurable, positive outcomes, but also yields substantial savings to states. A 2014 actuarial study by Milliman found that $26-$48 billion could be saved nationally through effective integration of medical and behavioral services.

Additionally, several studies underscore the positive impact of addiction and mental health services:

  • A 2004 randomized trial studying employer costs found that ‘consistently-employed patients in an enhanced depression management program had 8.2% greater productivity and 28.4% less absenteeism over two years than employees receiving ‘usual care’.
  • The reduction in absenteeism and increase in productivity had an estimated annual value of $2,601 per full-time equivalent employee.
  • The state of Washington compared disabled Medicaid enrollees receiving SU treatment with the untreated population, finding that average monthly medical costs were $414 higher for those not receiving treatment, and with the cost of the treatment added in, there was a net cost offset of $252 per month or $3,024 per year. For individuals with opiate-addiction, cost offsets rose to $899 per month for those who remain in methadone treatment for at least one year.
  • The same study also found that prior to their SUD treatment expansion initiative, healthcare costs for Medicaid disabled clients with SUD problems were rising at a rate of 11% per year. Under the SUD treatment expansion initiative, the growth in healthcare costs was slowed to just 2.8% per year.

The solution is clear.

The Illinois General Assembly and the Governor must prioritize funding for addiction and mental illness prevention, treatment, and recovery support. Lawmakers and the Governor need to end the funding reduction cycle. Now. Instead, Lawmakers and the Governor need to close the gap between those needing behavioral healthcare and those receiving it. Lawmakers and the Governor need to invest in behavioral healthcare.

The governor’s proposed FY 2017 budget fails to do that.

The budget needs a do over.

Sara Moscato Howe, CEO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association

showe@iadda.org

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