Kentucky receives an F grade for its low funding of mental-health services; supply falls short of demand

Kentucky’s supply of mental-health services is much lower than demand for those services, in terms of state funding, and the state spends only 45 percent of the national average in mental-health funding per person.

In 2010, Kentucky dedicated about $232 million to mental-health services, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is $54 per person, compared with a U.S. average of $121 that year. That ranks Kentucky among the bottom 10 states without including individual mental health reimbursements for Medicaid, reports Chris Kenning of The Courier-Journal.

The state’s Medicaid rates for mental-health services haven’t been raised substantially in years, and only a fraction of mental-health facilities offer residential treatments, reports Kenning. He also reports the most recent “Grading the States” report of the National Alliance on Mental Illness gave Kentucky an F in 2009. The group considered measures such as the number of programs using evidence-based practices and the number of psychiatric beds.

Kentucky officials cite new efforts to improve care, such as partnering with the University of Kentucky at a new Eastern State Hospital that will open soon, and pursuing a change to allow Medicaid funding of community outpatient teams, reports Kenning. Kentucky also funds 14 regional community mental-health centers, which served 160,000 people last year, and there are 179 mental-health facilities, which include 40 offering residential care, reports Kenning.

Yet, these efforts fall short of providing mental health services for those Kentuckians in need.  In 2011, a surprisingly high 42 percent of Kentucky adult females and 31 percent of Kentucky males reported having poor mental health. Experts estimate that one in four people will suffer from some form of mental illness in a given year, which is nearly 1.1 million people in Kentucky, Kenning reports. 

It is critical for Kentucky officials to examine this issue in light of the Department of Health and Human Services rule that included mental-health benefits and treatment of substance-abuse
disorders as part of the 10 “essential health benefits” insurance plans must provide when federal health reform takes full effect next year. HHS estimates it will expand
mental-health and substance-abuse treatment benefits to 62 million Americans, and there is already a shortage of such services in Kentucky.

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