Op-Ed: Those eligible for help will still be served

By Rep. Tom Keane

In the recently passed House budget, there is absolutely no need to reduce the psychiatric services provided to New Hampshire’s mental health beneficiaries eligible for state services.

Currently, the state provides 80 percent of the revenue needed to operate 10 community mental health centers, yet only 39 percent of their patients are state eligible for services.

The reductions in mental health services contained in the budget passed by the New Hampshire House are an attempt to ensure that state payments to the community mental health centers are used for only services rendered to those eligible for state care, not to subsidize care for those not eligible for state services.

The Bureau of Behavioral Health has for decades used a set of standard psychiatric symptoms to determine which patients are eligible for state-funded services. The current system allows the community mental health centers to decide which patients get funding for care.

According to a recent state audit, as of June 30, 2009, there were 38,965 patients in their system, but only 15,172 were actually eligible for state services.

The remaining 61 percent failed to meet the standards that have been in place for decades.

The fact that only 39 percent of the clients were eligible for state services and yet 80 percent of the total revenue for these centers was coming from the state clearly shows that if the money collected from the state were spent on state clients there would be no need to reduce any service that state-eligible patients are receiving.

The House budget did reduce the amount of state money going to community mental health centers with the hope that the Department of Health and Human Services, when it writes the annual contracts with the community mental health centers, would do so in a way that ensured state funds would be directed to the 39 percent of patients eligible for state services and not for the 61 percent of the clients who were not eligible.

In the meantime, what has happened is shameful.

State-eligible patients have been scared to death when told they will lose their services because of the House budget. If the care goes for the patients who are actually eligible, there should be no reduction in mental health services.

(State Rep. Tom Keane is a Republican from Bow.)

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