Clinicians express concerns over mental health care in Idaho

Clinicians express concerns over mental healthcare in Idaho

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - As the country continues to inch closer to the possible fiscal cliff, another deadline is fast approaching.

Congress has just four days to override the sustainable growth rate for Medicaid, or physicians will see an average 27 percent cut in their Medicaid reimbursements.

If Congress does not act, rates for mental health services, for example, will be cut drastically and could put a lot of clinics out of business.

"People in Idaho are not getting serviced appropriately," said counselor Leslie Barton, M. Coun., LCPC, NCC. "They're not getting the mental health services that they need."

For Barton, yearly funding cuts are a reality of her profession.

But she said if mental health clinics, psychosocial rehab and developmental disabilities agencies keep getting neglected, there will be even bigger problems.  

"Idaho will not have the services to meet the folks with mental illness and we could possibly have another Connecticut tragedy here in Idaho... if we don't meet these people's needs and take care of them and help them," said Barton.

Free Spirit Counseling in Idaho Falls sees many patients on a daily basis. The majority of whom, would be affected by these cuts.

"We have, as a mental health clinic, an influx of patients," said Caryl Frugoli, LPN, LCSW. "What their main concern is, am I going to have services? They're scared. They don't know where they're going to go."

But the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare remains hopefull Congress will act very soon or within the first of the year.  

"Usually if they do it after the first of the year, then they make it retroactive to the first of the year," said Tom Shanahan, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesperson. "That's what we're anticipating and hopefully that'll happen.

"We're going to be there for them. We're going to go through changes. That's the one thing that's constant, is change. But Idaho needs to step up."

According to the Medical Group Management Association, 45 percent of doctors would cut back on new Medicare appointments if the cuts take effect January 1st.

There are really only two business days for Congress to make a decision, and one of those is preholiday.

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