Despite an increase in state spending on mental health care, Texas still ranks last in per capita funding for people with mental illness, according to a report issued by the National Alliance of Mental Illness

The report showed Texas increased its spending by 4.3 percent over the last three years — the 2012 budget is $964.1 million. But NAMI Texas Executive Director Robin Peyson said that’s not enough.

“I think that mental health stakeholders, NAMI and other partners, need to help our policymakers understand why it’s penny-wise and pound-foolish to not pay for mental health services,” Peyson said.

Although Texas was one of a handful of states that didn’t have its mental health budget cut over that time period, Peyson said the state has the largest uninsured population, one that's only growing.

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Some states made staggering cuts, such as California, which slashed $764.8 million between 2009 and 2012. But California's per capita spending still remained higher than Texas', which has been at the bottom of the list for the past few years.

Health funding for states became even more complicated in June with the expiration of the federal stimulus funds that temporarily boosted the federal match for Medicaid. Without the increased match, the heightened cost of Medicaid funding will fall largely on individual states: The report predicts an additional cost for Texas of $851 million in 2012.

The report recommends changes in policy to preserve mental health budgets, including protecting and strengthening mental health services and restoring spending cuts, and preserving access to acute care and long-term care services.

“If someone shows up with an acute mental health crisis, you get in the door but when your crisis is over you go on a waiting list,” Peyson said. “You wouldn’t put people with diabetes on a waiting list, they’ll die.”

NAMI Texas is hoping the report will encourage activism against cuts, since the state ranks so low on the list and the situation is urgent.

“I feel like a broken record but I’ll say it as many times as I need to, people with mental illness that aren’t treated show up in your emergency rooms and your jails,” Peyson said. “[Mental illness] one of the biggest health issues that has a measurable cost.” 

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