Reversing a half-decade long trend, mental health spending increased in 37 states during this past year’s legislative sessions, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness‘ annual legislative report.
“After years of attempting to meet rising demand with diminishing resources, public mental health systems are stretched to the breaking point,” the report stated. “With few exceptions state legislatures acknowledged the need, increased or maintained mental health appropriations or enacted legislation to monitor and improve mental health service delivery.”
The Newtown Massacre, and subsequent call for expanded mental health services by the Obama Administration, prompted an increased focus on mental health services. The most significant spending increase came from Texas, which expanded its mental health budget by $259 million. In California, the increase was $143 million.
Along with the spending increase, 17 states passed laws with stricter gun restrictions for people with mental illnesses, 10 states passed school mental health bills, and three states passed laws requiring clinicians to report signs of dangerousness in individuals with mental illness.
Another significant factor was the improved economic outlook. Between 2009 and 2012, states cut more than $4.35 billion in total from their mental health budgets.
States also began adopting to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, which requires almost all plans to cover mental health services, as one of 10 essential benefits requirements, and includes a mental health parity provision, requiring insurers to cover services for mental disabilities at a similar level to physical disabilities.
“NAMI hopes this report serves as a valuable resource for advocates and policy makers as they continue the work of building the mental health system of the future, wherein services, treatment and supports are made accessible to all in need,” NAMI stated in a news release. “NAMI advocates for a system where children, youth and adults are provided the mental health care they need to stabilize, recover and live healthy lives.”