Monday, December 6, 2010

Preventative Programs: Double Your Dollar!

For the last few months I have had the opportunity to volunteer with Caritas, an organization dedicated to helping those affected by homelessness. As a result of my volunteering, I've had great chats and learned of incredible programs. Downtown Austin merchants and Caritas are working together to raise money for a program that they are currently calling "frequent fliers." Downtown Austin is home to several very mentally sick homeless individuals. I've seen first hand how much help these individuals need. The goal of the frequent fliers program is to provide social services including supportive housing for the 20 most at risk homeless individuals in downtown Austin. This (as some may assume) includes those with the most severe mental illnesses living on the streets. The 20 selected to be a part of this program have cost the city of Austin close to $100,000 each year due to their cycling from the streets to jail to psychiatric hospitals and back to the streets. It's clear that major metropolitan cities similar to Austin may be spending equal amounts on such groups of people.

Spending may not decrease but the number of untreated individuals with a chronic mental illness continues to rise. While the number continues to rise the funding is being slashed for 2011. Pete Earley, well known author and father to a son with a mental illness explains shift in cost despite budget cuts; "Serious mental disorders don’t disappear just because you stop paying to treat them. Like stepping on a balloon, the costs associated with mental illnesses simply shift over and increase costs in areas, such as jails and prisons."

In 2009 The Perryman Group, an economic research and analysis firm out of Dallas, Texas was asked to review Texas mental health services. The Perryman Group discovered that Texas' return on investment for preventative services would greatly benefit the state economically. (Not to mention all the great things they'd be doing for a group of people that really need help.)

Pete Earley summarized the findings on his blog: "The authors found that providing treatment for alcohol and substance abuse would give the state a return on investment of $2.26 for every $1 that was spent. Jail diversion, which enables persons with mental disorders to get treatment rather than being locked-up, averaged a return to the state of $2.70 per every $1 that it spent. The most interesting statistic was a projection about cuts that Texas has made during the last decade. If the state had stuck with the budget that it had in 2000 for mental health and substance abuse services, rather than butchering those funds — Texas would be earning a 170% return on its money or netting $32.76 today for every dollar that it spent. Instead, reducing services resulted in Texas losing productivity, losing jobs, and losing tax revenues. At the same time, Texas has seen an increase in state costs for jails, an increase in suicides, increases in drug and alcohol addiction, and an increase in homelessness. After crunching the numbers, the Perryman group concluded that cutting the mental health services in Texas actually had contributed to the budget deficit that the state now faces, rather than helping reduce it!"

Readers, I hope you are as astonished as I was when I first read this information. I thought "you're telling me the state of Texas could actually more than double their investment? I'm no economist and well, math has never been my strength. BUT! I can tell you that I know if I have 5 bucks and I double it, then I have $10. That means I could eat off the McDonalds dollar menu for maybe, 5 days in a row!" (But, that's an entirely different subject...and blog)

  • Download the study from The Perryman Group. Email this study to your state politicians. Actually, go a step further, grab a friend, print this off and hand deliver it!! Read Me! Send Me!
  • Follow Supporting Our Siblings on Twitter! We'd love to grow our readership and increase the conversations about our blogs. Our writing can't do much unless we can spur conversation and help to break down the stigma that is associated with discussing mental illness.

No comments:

Post a Comment