State budget cuts mental health, other services to King County residents

  • Thursday, August 31, 2017 11:33am
  • News
State budget cuts mental health, other services to King County residents

After the state Legislature hurriedly approved a biennial budget after a third special session in June, King County officials warned that it appeared to underfund the rates that support front-line community behavioral health care in King County.

Now, the state’s own financial analysis confirms that the budget includes significant cuts to Medicaid mental health and substance use treatment funding, which will reduce vital services for low-income residents across the county, according to a media release Thursday from County Executive Dow Constantine.

Medicaid-eligible mental health and substance use disorder service rates are reduced by $18 million for King County in fiscal year 2018 alone. In its adopted budget, the state House of Representatives included more funding to narrow this gap. However, the final state budget reduced funding for core Medicaid services by 8 percent compared to fiscal year 2017 funding. Many other counties across the state face similar reductions.

“The state budget takes us in the wrong direction. This may have not been the Legislature’s intent, but the fact is that we will be forced to reduce mental health and substance use disorder treatment at a time when King County is fighting homelessness, a heroin epidemic, and an already critical need for mental health services,” Constantine said. “If the Legislature does not fix this next year, it will have a devastating impact on our residents and the health of our communities.”

The Medicaid rate cut undermines the entire behavioral health system. King County is doing all it can to mitigate the impact but there is no way the county can prevent these cuts from hurting people in need of care.

Essential community-based services in King County that are funded by Medicaid and could be impacted by this cut include:

• outpatient treatment for people who need care but lack resources

• residential care that helps keep people with serious conditions out of hospitals

• medication-assisted treatment that helps people recover from opioid addiction

County officials and behavioral health providers will work with state legislators to find a solution to the funding cut as soon as possible in the next session.

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