Sequester Threatens Those with Mental Illness & Their Families

Clearly, Americans are just plain tired or perhaps more accurately hopeless. We hardly blinked when Congress once again failed us, allowing sequestration to take effect, an act which just a year ago seemed catastrophic and impossible. By this February we knew what was up.  Congress went on break and came back with barely a hint that it would act. To soften the blow, many argued that the effects of the cuts weren’t really going to be that bad, not as bad as President Obama predicted.sign

But as a mom and advocate for those with mental illness, I’m concerned about what sequestration means for those with mental illness and their families.  Just last week, I blogged about the vital need for improved mental health care in light of the Newtown and Aurora shootings.  And the outcry has been loud from others – our legislators, our health care professional. But how can we expect improvements in mental health care treatment when programs, underfunded for decades, will be cut even further?

Under the sequester, 373,000 children and adults with serious mental illness will lose services that help prevent hospitalization, homelessness, and incarceration.  In addition, estimates indicate that 200,000 Americans will lose access to substance-abuse treatment and 8,900 mentally ill homeless people will be cut off from outreach programs that provide shelter and treatment.

It piles insult onto injury. Over the past three years, state mental health budgets have been cut by a combined $4 billion. That in spite of the fact that one in every four Americans lives with a mental health condition and some 70-80% of adults and children do not receive treatment.

Whatever happened to our belief that as citizens we must care for the most vulnerable among us?  It’s not just a failing for those who need help, it’s a failing for all of us.  It affects our quality of life, our community environments, and our pocketbooks as we pay for homelessness, increased prison populations, and the pressure on emergency rooms.

How can we be so shortsighted?  Further cuts will be devastating to communities and to those living with mental illness.  They  threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and families.


Sequester Threatens Those with Mental Illness & Their Families — 8 Comments

  1. For many years there has been an ongoing assault on the Sanctity of Life; deep and meaningful Relationships of mutual caring.

    Martin Niemoller concerning the massive silence of the German church when Hitler and the SS systematically sought to destroy the Jews stated, “I didn’t object until they came for me.”

    We too are silent, because we are so myopic that we cannot see that if all human life is not precious, then eventually neither will be mine…

    We have become desensitized by the immensity of the worldwide catastrophe and withdrawn into an imaginary shell of security.

    Further, we have been separated from one another by the demands of maintaining our current life choices.

    Time has been enslaved to convenience and pleasure; relationships have suffered in the suffocation that has resulted from the breath taking lifestyle paces.

    • Hi All,

      Kathy Brandt here, blog author and administrator. I’m simply amazed and overwhelmed by all the comments and good discussion about the use antipsychotics. I’m learning more each day as I read your posts and check out the links you’ve recommended. Thank you to everyone of you all and I hope the conversation continues and perhaps expands into other treatment options.

      You may be interested to know that a study just published (July 3, 2013) in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA) indicate that patients whose antipsychotic treatment was reduced or discontinued experienced a recovery rate twice that of patients maintained on antipsychotics. Here’s the link to the abstract:

      Best wishes,


  2. You won’t like what I am about to say, but I’m only highlighting an article I read in the Washington Post. It discussed this NOW national debate about gun control (and as we know the Newtown incident was suggested to be linked to mental illness – more mental illness stigma – let’s not forget the shooter lived with a developmental disorder and not a mental illness); however, cities like Washington DC closed ALL of it’s community mental health centers sighting budget issues and left those while mental illness issues to fend for themselves in the mental health private sector. Many who used the Community Centers did not have insurance and these centers were their only source for seeking help. And, I’m sorry to bring the gun control issue into this dialogue, but, as the Washington Post article pointed out…hundreds of Black youth are being gunned down, some within sight of the Capital, but he national debate did not start until after Newtown & Aurora. We had more deaths associated with gun violence in Chicago this past year then we had in Afganistan…go figure.

    When it’s time to cut spending guess who loses funds first…those who need the most help like those with serious or chronic mental health concerns/illness, as well as those of us who serve this population. When they closed all the DC Centers a relative of mine lost her job as an addiction counselor (Masters level training and over 10 years of experience)…just left out in the cold with those she was saving.

    Thanks Kathy for bringing this issue to light and my apologies for deviation into the gun control debate. Newtown still saddens me b/c I once worked in early childhood education. Now I’m being saddened by the lack of concern for the treatment of those with mental health issues. Sweep it under the run seems to be how some of our legislators and administrators deal with this.

    Newtown, Columbine, VTech, and the list goes on and on happens b/c we live in a society propagandizes us to fear our neighbors.

    • Thank you, Stephen, for your excellent response. It’s very discouraging to hear of all the closures of mental health centers when the need is so great and continues to grow.

      I agree with you about the gun debate. I happen to on my way to Chicago at this moment to visit one of my kids. They live in what is considered a “safe” neighborhood, yet there were two recent shootings a block from their apartment.

      • I also read an article recently about the quality of care in mental health facilities (secure). Many times the staff demonstrates their own stigma towards those seeking help…I know this b/c from the research I did for my thesis on stigma associated with depression in a higher education setting. Like a friend of mine in another industry used to say: “Just because you are certified does not mean you are qualified”.

        And on a slightly different vein…if we, as a society, can teach our young better my theory we come to light: If we teach them when they are young, we will not have to treat them when the are older (related to mental health).

        • Thanks for your comments Stephen. So many of the staff on psychiatric units are compassionate and qualified individuals. Unfortunately, I know from personal experience that abuse does occur and sometimes training is inadequate.

          • Yes, there are many compassionate and competent staff on these units. Please do not take my comment wrong…just wanted to acknowledge that research demonstrates that stigma exist among the clinicians as well..not all…

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