In a Baltimore Sun op-ed, Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk and former Delegate James W. Hubbard discussed the importance of mental health and substance abuse services in light of behavioral health funding cuts made by the Board of Public Works earlier this month:
Behavioral health treatment is an important component of health care that serves our friends and neighbors with seemingly invisible illnesses. Most importantly, our behavioral health system works. It provides treatment and services to Marylanders who need help and allows them to live safe and fulfilling lives.
Demand for services is steadily increasing in Maryland, with the number of people using our public mental health system increasing 65 percent since the start of the “Great Recession.” However, support for the service providers who give care and treatment is not keeping up. The current year budget included a modest rate increase for mental health providers as a result of legislation that passed unanimously in 2010. This was only the 6th such adjustment over the past 19 years and was long overdue. To see it cut in half at the Jan. 7th Board of Public Works meeting was devastating.
Years of stagnant or reduced budgets have left service providers unprepared to meet the needs of the many Marylanders who need help. Staff turnover is extremely high in this demanding field. Mental health and substance use disorders can be treated, but only if those in need have access to proper services and treatment providers.
For more information read the full op-ed in the Baltimore Sun.