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Gov. Nixon visits Burrell Behavioral Health in Springfield to discuss impact of strengthening Medicaid on mental health

Press Release

Location: Springfield, MO

Gov. Jay Nixon today joined local law enforcement and health providers at Burrell Behavioral Health in Springfield to discuss a new report by the Missouri Department of Mental Health which found that strengthening Medicaid will strengthen public safety by improving access to treatment for individuals with mental illness. The report also found that declining the federal dollars available to strengthen Medicaid will limit access to these services and weaken public safety, as hospitals respond to federal cuts by eliminating psychiatric inpatient beds.

"Many Missourians with serious mental illness don't have health insurance and wait years for treatment, putting a severe strain on their families, as well as emergency rooms and local law enforcement," Gov. Nixon said. "Bringing our tax dollars back to strengthen Medicaid in Missouri will enhance public safety by giving these troubled individuals access to effective and timely treatment, before it's too late."

Gov. Nixon's plan would bring $5.7 billion to Missouri and provide health coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians over the next three years - at no cost to the state. An estimated 50,000 of these previously uninsured Missourians need mental health services, including treatment for serious mental illness. According to the report, "many will be young adults, between the ages of 18-30, with developing mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder."

"This report demonstrates not only the clear benefits of strengthening Medicaid to our mental health system, it also sheds new light on the steep costs of failing to move forward." Gov. Nixon said. "Sending our tax dollars to be spent in other states will reduce access to psychiatric treatment for the people who need it the most, weakening our mental health safety net and undermining public safety. We need to move forward, not backward, when it comes to keeping our citizens healthy and our communities safe."

The report found that Missouri hospitals currently receive more than $500 million annually in federal reimbursements for delivering inpatient services to uninsured and indigent patients. These federal payments will be cut by about $250 million a year, regardless of the state's decision on extending Medicaid eligibility. According to the report, if Missouri does not access additional federal dollars to make up for these cuts, Missouri hospitals will reduce the number of community hospital psychiatric beds, placing "additional stress on hospital emergency rooms, law enforcement officials, city and county jails and the Missouri Department of Corrections."

"Our officers encounter persons with severe mental illness every day, and dealing with these individuals puts a significant burden on our department's time and resources," said Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams. "We have a real interest in making sure those with severe mental illness get the treatment they need before they become a threat to themselves or the public - and that's what this proposal will do."

"Because of the lack of mental health beds, county jails have become the new community mental health units for many individuals who, after not receiving treatment and/or medications for an extended period of time, will commit crimes that cause them to be arrested and subsequently incarcerated," said Henry County Sheriff Kent Oberkrom, President of the Missouri Sheriffs' Association, in the report. "It is too often the case that a person with mental illness is in a continuous revolving door of community, law enforcement and mental health services."

Because federal funding will cover 100 percent of the costs for calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016, expanding health care coverage to these uninsured Missourians would involve no state tax dollars for those years. Some of these federal dollars will pay for coverage that is currently being paid for with state dollars. In addition, the economic benefit of expansion will generate additional state revenue. These savings and revenue are conservatively estimated to have a positive impact of $46.6 million in 2014, $125 million in 2015, and $139.6 million in 2016.

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