Mental health services face cuts in Idaho

Mental health services face cuts in Idaho
BOISE (AP) - The state's mental health program has
dropped hundreds of clients in the past year amid staffing cuts
that were forced by budget holdbacks.

Administrator Kathleen Allyn told lawmakers Wednesday her agency
has identified about 450 clients who had insurance, including
Medicaid, and referred them to private providers.

Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, says she's concerned about how
well the state is following up with clients who were cut from the
system, citing a shooting in eastern Idaho.

A man was shot last year while leaving a Pocatello coffee shop
that was near the home of another man who police say did the
shooting soon after being removed from a state mental health
program.

It's been a hotly debated topic since the massacre in Tucson: are states doing enough to identify and help mentally disturbed people who may become violent?

Polls show the Tucson shootings which witnesses and police say were carried out by a mentally disturbed young man have many Americans worried the mental health system is failing to help people who pose a danger to the community.

Allyn says limited funding and staffing have forced her to prioritize. At the top of her list are intervention services for people in imminent danger to themselves or others.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's recommended budget for the Department of Health and Welfare's mental health services division for fiscal year 2012 is $32.4 million, down 4.6 percent from 2011 and a full 19 percent less than in 2008.

The division has laid off or left unfilled 35 full time positions to assist adults with mental health problems, and another 14 positions to help kids.