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A quick scan of Mayor Vincent Gray‘s proposed budget shows that a majority of cuts going to social services. Sixty percent of the cuts target health and human services.  While the mayor proposes those cuts, he has sought an increase of $16.7 million to pay for kids to be shipped out of the city to residential treatment centers—-kids without a valid medical reason for being in these controversial RTCs.

In its preliminary review of the Gray’s budget, the D.C. Behavioral Health Association found reductions in vital services for children:

“$900,000 reduction from DMH’s contracts for non-Medicaid reimbursed services for children.  These services may include mobile crisis response – which prevents children from being hospitalized for psychiatric emergency – and D.C. Choices, which works to prevent youth in schools and the juvenile justice system from being sent to psychiatric residential treatment centers.

$2,500,000 reduction from DMH’s funds that support specialized, non-Medicaid reimbursed mental health treatment for traumatized children through CFSA’s intra-district transfer, including Choice Provider assessment, training and practice capacity funds.

There is a $3 million local-funding cap on DMH’s specialty, in-home treatment services; if this applies to Medicaid-funded services, it would translate to an overall $10.3 million reduction in treatment funds.

An additional $80.7 million reduction in Medicaid provider payments that is not further detailed, but which may further reduce Medicaid funding for mental health providers.”

Shannon Hall, executive director of the D.C. Behavioral Health Association, said via email:

“D.C. already under-spends on children’s mental health treatment: we spent $13 million on our children’s mental health program while Vermont, which has a similiar population size, spent $72 million.  Now Mayor Gray’s proposed FY2012 further reduces the mental health services that keep children out of hospitals and out of the juvenile delinquency system.  It reduces the treatment funds that help parents improve their parenting skills.  Perversely, while cutting these effective programs, Mayor Gray proposes spending significantly more on the expensive interventions that don’t have the proven track record of efficacy.”

Councilmember David Catania may have something to say about these cuts. This past week he announced a sweeping proposal that would address children’s mental health in a comprehensive way.