Update: Life Support: The Sick State of Idaho's Mental Health

Update: Life Support: The Sick State of Idaho's Mental Health
BOISE, Idaho - Back in May, we brought you Paula Campbell's story. Her son Jason, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was about to be dropped from Medicaid.

It's been a rough few months for Paula and her family, and it could still be a long road ahead.

Jason stopped working in March, 2010, after his disease worsened. His mood swings grew more dramatic, but health workers told Paula her 24-year-old son was no longer eligible for Medicaid benefits.

He was switched to Medicare and was told to find a new psychiatrist. But the only doctor Paula could find was booked two months out. At the same time, a new pharmacy wasn't filling his prescriptions because of a clerical error.

Jason went nearly three months without a psychiatrist or medication. His mother had to watch helplessly as her son's mental health disintegrated.

"That's just appalling to me that there was no communication," says Paula Campbell. "He was not able to communicate even to me what was happening. So once that medication is out of your system, it'll be a year before he's stabilized."

Although Medicare does cover the cost of prescriptions and seeing a psychiatrist, it does not provide other vital services, including case management.

Case managers coordinate with doctors, counselors, insurance companies and social service organizations to make sure patients get what they need to function.

"Unfortunately, if you're not getting some kind of support or the right medication with a mental illness you're just not able to function as well, and once you're out of the pattern of getting out to work, you lose your confidence," says Campbell.

The reason Campbell's son Jason was kicked off Medicaid is because he receives $796 a month on disability. The cutoff is $707, meaning Jason is over the line by just $89 a month.

Under Medicaid a case worker would spend 4 hours a week with Jason, helping him with his medications, his appointments, his job and his life.

Right now all that additional support is gone, and currently the only way Jason can get it back is to get a job, which he's currently too sick to do.

"Our hearts go out to them," says Idaho Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan, "because we know what mental illness is and the ramifications of that. But at the same time we have to follow the rules we do have."

Although Idaho is now last among all 50 states when it comes to mental health funding, Shanahan says it could be worse.

"I think the legislature tried to preserve as much mental health funding as they could," says Shanahan. In Medicaid they did reduce some of the services a little bit, but by the same token they never eliminated any services, and that was originally on the table."

Campbell is hopeful her son can still lead a good life now that he's back on medication, and seeing a doctor.

"I'm hoping he will be able to get a job, be happy, get back on track," says Campbell. And he will do that. I have every confidence that will happen."

NOTE: If you know someone who is no longer eligible for Medicaid, the state may be able to pay their premium and co-payments on Medicare. To find out more, click the link below.

Access to Health Insurance