The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut has again raised the issue of access to mental health services. Since our state legislature adopted Senate File 69 in 1996, providing property tax relief, but freezing the amount of funding counties could generate for mental health services, the state has grossly underfunded our mental health system.
We are now seeing the erosion of the preventive and safety net continuum of services that had been established to provide appropriate and affordable access to mental health services when individuals with mental illness need them. These services include early assessment, crisis intervention, hospitalization, and residential treatment. Access to these services has been reduced and they are in danger of elimination due to mental health budget reductions.
At the same time we are experiencing waiting lists for services, there have been serious and significant reductions in mental health services in Linn County this fiscal year and there will be more drastic reductions should our legislature not provide necessary mental health funding during this session.
Every day we read that the primary focus of this year’s legislative session will be on the reduction of corporate property taxes and increased funding for education. While both are certainly worthwhile endeavors, if we are serious about providing increased access to mental health services, shouldn’t we at least give this issue equal time?