Kitsap Mental Health funding at risk — Worst scenario, switch to crisis-only

Kitsap County approved an $8,512,174 service contract with Kitsap Mental Health last month, but similar contracts central to the agency’s budget are at risk of being cut.

Joe Roszak, executive director of Kitsap Mental Health, said that as a result of Governor Chris Gregoire’s requirement that state agencies submit proposals for 10 percent budget cuts, the institution is at risk of losing core services. In a worst-case scenario, Roszak said, Kitsap Mental Health could become a “crisis-only facility.”

Anders Edgerton, the County’s contact for the contract, said approval of the $8.5 million budget package was “routine.” The contract, and others like it, are arranged between the city and service providers to distribute state funds.

Kitsap Mental Health, a single agency, has multiple contracts with the County for different services provided to different groups, Edgerton said.

David Dickinson, a director at the state Department of Social and Health Services, said his agency had proposed a package of cuts that included ending nearly all state funding for adult drug abuse prevention and treatment and all medication subsidies for adults.

The cuts would also affect Medicaid eligibility and funding and would close six wards at the state’s two mental hospitals, Dickinson said

Dickinson also directs the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, which includes mental health and substance abuse.

“No one ever contemplated these options,” Dickinson said.

Both Roszak and Dickinson emphasized that the cuts were still only proposals. The cuts from each agency must make it past the office of financial management, the governor and ultimately the Legislature.

With one-sixth of the state’s population on Medicaid, Dickinson said he didn’t think the political will existed for major cuts to those services.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen until the governor signs it,” Roszak said.

Cuts to state Medicaid funding would have an especially severe effect on Kitsap Mental Health, Roszak said. Since federal Medicaid funding is tied directly to state funding, Roszak said, for every state dollar cut, the organization also loses a dollar in federal funds.

According to materials made available by the institution, Medicaid state and federal funding make up 77 percent of Kitsap Mental Health’s total budget.

The proposal, Dickinson said, eliminates the state’s coverage of adult drug abuse treatment and prevention services for all except minors, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Those services, Roszak said, are key to KMH’s care. More than 60 percent of the institution’s current patients also have drug problems. Treating the two separately is ineffective, Rozsak said.

Closing wards at state mental hospitals, Roszak said, would ultimately just mean more people coming through the door at Kitsap Mental Health.

If all the cuts are accepted by the governor and Legislature, Roszak said, the facility would become a “crisis-only facility,” cutting all treatment, therapy, and counseling outpatient services.

The same number of people will need treatment whether Kitsap Mental Health offers outpatient services or not, Roszak said. If the organization switches to “crisis-only” care, he said, the difference would be patients only being able to get care when they were deemed a risk to themselves or others.

Without treatment, Roszak said, 90 percent of the institution’s patients would eventually become a risk to themselves.

After cuts made in the last legislative session, Roszak said, the institution now turns away an average of 10 people per week.

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