BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) – The state’s budget cuts have touched nearly every sector of the economy. Hardest hit? Education and Healthcare – which includes mental health. House Bill 1 proposes cuts to the Department of Health and Hospitals; which funds mental health care services.
Department of Health and Hospitals spokesman Bob Johannessen says the agency is well aware of the impact a budget reduction would have on programs that provide mental health services. He says the better answer at this point is that DHH really doesn’t know the extent of any reductions to the DHH budget. “The final budget was passed just yesterday (Monday). So, our folks right now are spending time going through it trying to determine what the overall impact to our department is going to be,” adds Johannessen.
Johannessen explains that it will be the budget impact that will determine where the reductions will be. DHH says mental health care is important. Service providers say it would be sad to see people diagnosed with a mental illness go without programs that help them cope, support social and learning skills – and minimize incarcerations. DHH says if it had to be decided today, the first cuts would probably be to the state’s public-private partner hospitals. “For those nine private partners or ours who we rely on incredibly; we would prioritize first those that provide medical education and then those that may have less medical education would be on the bottom of the priority list,” notes Johannessen.
Senator Gerald Boudreaux says when it comes to finding revenue he’s not aiming for sales taxes. He’s going after those tax breaks given to businesses. “They promised some things. Let’s see if they have delivered on those and if not take some of those exemptions away.”
State Representative Terry Landry says to keep in mind that the state is facing a $600 million crisis. “The agencies decide what they’re going to cut and where they are going to cut based on the money that’s allocated to them,” says Landry.
Senator Fred Mills says, be patient. “Will funding be restored? Will new funding be generated? So, we hit the pause button and at 6pm on Monday. We start the next session to figure it out,” notes Mills.
“We”re hoping that our legislators will be able to find additional revenue to fully support and fund health in this state,” says Johannessen.