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Mental Health Treatment Costs

By Stephen E. Cohen, editor
(Written under the direction of Joel Kaplan)


Contrary to popular belief, mental illness is an illness like any other. More times than not, it can be treated with therapy and medication, and patients can wind up healthy again.

The common perception is that the only treatment for the mentally ill is to lock them in padded rooms and straightjackets. While subscribing to this method of treatment for the better part of history, the medical profession haas realized that better treatment for mental illness exists outside of institutions.

During the past five years, mental health professionals have helped lead a movement away from institutionalization as the man treatment for mental illness. Instead, the trend and treatment of choice has been to treat patients on a out-patient level.

Recognizing the need to do more that institutionalize patients was an important step on behalf of mental health professionals and the state's board of health. However, there is a misconception that when you lower the number of people treated in institutions, the budget for treatment of mental illness can be proportionally lowered.

In fact, the opposite is true, according to a Daily Orange report today. Out-patient care is expensive. The mentally ill cannot simple make appointments and be treated at those prescribed times. Instead, they need to be monitored and contacted on a regular basis by health care aides.

The cutting of the treatment budgets with the reduction of institutional beds does a disservice to the state and to the patients. The patients are not getting adequate care or housing, and New York will eventually have to pour more money into the system.

In theory, treatment of mental illness has drastically improved during the past decade. It is up to policy makers to ensure that money is allocated to ensure that such treatment also improves in practice.

Copyright 1994, used with permission from The Daily Orange.

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