Mental Health agencies all over the nation are hearing financial distress in fiscal year 2012. What are we as mental health professionals to do when we do not get support from our leaders when we need it the most? When people are in hard times financially, emotionally, medically, spiritually, etc… why is it that funding for the helping professions is the first to be cut? Let’s process this troubling situation together, shall we?
Here in the State of Ohio it is projected we will have an 8 Billion, yes Billion with a B, budget shortfall. Mental Health has already been cut drastically and we are looking at even more cuts to come. County mental health boards are given an allotment of funds by the state every year and part of that allotment is for Medicare/Medicaid matching. If a counseling fee is not fully reimbursed by Medicare/Medicaid then the county mental health board will make up the rest of the fee so that the agencies receiving the funds can continue to operate and keep programs running.
When certain county mental health boards are financially stable and have saved up funds for a rainy day like we are currently experiencing, you would expect that the government would applaud the sound financial management. In fact, all of the funds that the central government allots to county mental health boards can be taken away at the whim of the legislators. Since it is mandatory by law that fees for Medicare/Medicaid services must be matched using the state funds, the government will take from mental health boards that managed their budget well and gives to mental health boards that have not. Modern day Robin Hood right in our own backyard called government.
My particular agency has lost over $1M in funding since FY08 and we are very concerned about the FY12 as state projections are not looking promising. Thankfully our agency President/CEO has taken the stance of not discontinuing entire programs or laying-off entire departments. With the wait and see approach that many agencies are going through, the future looks uncertain at best.
After reading this doom and gloom blog you ask yourself, where is the hope? How can we, the professionals, offer hope to our clients when all we hear is uncertainty, uncertainty, uncertainty? Hope is a very uncertain term. You place hope in something you cannot see because who hopes for what you already see? BUT, if you hope for what you do not see, you will wait for it with an extreme amount of patience and composure.
I will leave you with one quote that I try to live by which gives me peace in times of personal distress as a counselor. I attach this quote to the end of every e-mail I send and give this quote to every client I see. The quote comes from a baseball player, by the name of Mickey Rivers, who spent 12 years in the Major Leagues.
"I don't get upset over things I can't control, because if I can't control them, there's no use getting upset. And I don't get upset over the things I can control because if I can control them, there's no use getting upset."
-- Mickey Rivers
Josh Andrews is a counselor at a behavioral health agency working with children, adolescents, and families. His professional interests include the spiritual side of humankind, cognitive behavior therapy, reality therapy, and advancing the knowledge and practice of professional counseling.