Thursday, April 8, 2010

Missouri Senate panel approves cuts to mental health

Hundreds of Missouri residents could be denied mental health services under spending cuts approved Wednesday by a Senate committee trying to close a projected shortfall in next year's budget.

The Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed a 10 percent reduction in state aid for alcohol and drug abuse treatment, psychiatric care and crisis services for people with developmental disabilities.

State budget director Linda Luebbering said the cuts are supported by Gov. Jay Nixon, whose staff has been working with senators to close a $500 million gap in the nearly $23.9 billion budget he proposed. Lawmakers have until May 7 to pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The budget passed previously by the House was $200 million less than the plan Nixon outlined in January. Senators are looking to make deeper cuts because of uncertainty over whether Missouri will receive an additional $300 million of federal stimulus money. Nixon originally proposed to spend that questionable money next year, but he now prefers to save it until 2012, when the state's budget problems are expected to be even worse.

The Senate committee already has approved cuts in aid to public colleges and universities, busing for K-12 school districts and the Parents as Teachers early childhood development program, among other things. But the cuts Wednesday to mental health services were among the hardest to make, said Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis.

"We're really cutting people's lives here," Green said.

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Added Note: It is always the disabled who are made to suffer the most when it comes to budget cutting.

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