POSTED: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 6:30pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 6:34pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — "If we continue to have these things cut back, we really reach the point where you can literally be taking medication out of people's mouths," says Jennifer Jantz.
Jantz is the Executive Director for the Louisiana affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She says the state was struggling to take care of the mentally ill before more than $550,000 was cut from the Office of Behavioral Health's budget.
"It's already a big problem to access treatment. So, to cut services and to cut treatment is just gonna make that problem worse," says Jantz.
The cuts mean Southeast Louisiana State Hospital will close its doors. But this doesn't mean a reduction in the number of beds available for patients according to Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein.
"We're working with groups associated with Southeast Hospital. We're working on our reductions for the mental health system in order to not lose any beds and to move capacity to other parts of the state," says Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein.
This is because several public and private institutions from across the state will pick up the slack. But with patients perhaps having to move far from home to receive care, this could put a strain on their rehabilitation.
"With mental health treatment you want to have support. You want to have the family be able to be involved...so to have to travel or have to go far away...could be difficult for them to be part of the treatment and part of the solution," says Jantz.
And Jantz fears that if the state keeps reorganizing and cutting mental health services, this could have dire consequences for those that need them the most.
"When you cut services for mental health, all you really do is cost shift. People end up in the E.R.'s. People end up in the jails. People end up homeless," says Jantz.