This morning during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) argued that the Tucson tragedy highlighted the the poor state of the nation’s mental health safety net and said that the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, “should have been identified at the community college when he was thrown out”:
BROWN: It’s only going to get worse because of state budget cuts. That’s a pretty easy place for people to go after, let’s cut some of the mental health outreach. Might mean some more homelessness but most people that dress like this in politics don’t see them, don’t talk to them, don’t ‘know them. We passed mental health parity, with the health care bill that should help, but most of this is state level mental health programs and we really got to guide against shredding them more than they’ve been shredded.
Q: You’d really put more money into mental health?… Over what though because then you have to cut something on the other end?
BROWN: Well, I’d say over the war in Afghanistan, we should withdraw troops sooner, I mean if you want to go into that kind of sort of macro discussion. But mental health services and issue are just as important as physical issues.
The The National Alliance on Mental Illness has put Arizona at the top of the list of states that are “considered to have made the deepest cuts in mental health care.” In 2010, the state reduced funding to the Department of Health Services by $36 million (37% of total budget), meaning that residents with mental illnesses who don’t qualify for the state Medicaid program are receiving “only basic doctor visits and generic medicine. People contemplating suicide will be directed to a crisis hotline, but the state will no longer pay for them to be hospitalized.”
Since July 1, 2010, 3,800 people with mental illness were “no longer eligible for case management, counseling, employment preparation and support, inpatient treatment or other services.”