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Where the state cuts meet the local budgets

Via Grits, an editorial in the Longview News-Journal of interest:

Routine mental health services were the first to fall during the 2003 budget crisis, which was preceded by pre-session cuts the fall and summer of 2002.

East Texas mental health professionals, judges, law enforcement and elected officials tell us such cuts already have curtailed routine services with demonstrated success keeping patients faithful to their prescription drug regimens. That, in turn, keeps them from falling into the behaviors that land them in jail or emergency rooms where costs are at their highest.

Effectively mandating such inefficient use of resources certainly is not what we consider a conservative approach from state lawmakers. Local officials and agencies, seeing the problem the state has pushed onto them, are cobbling together innovative programs to fill the gap, but they acknowledge problems remain.

So we were pleased to hear Rep.-elect David Simpson, a Longview Republican among 22 freshman GOP legislators voted into office this fall on a tea party platform of smaller government, tell us such programs would be low on his list of targets for further cuts.

“The weak, the poor are the last place to look,” Simpson told the News-Journal’s Glenn Evans. “And we don’t want to just push down the cost. If we cut them back, we’re just pushing it down” to local governments.
Sen. Kevin Eltife, a Tyler Republican, agreed.

“We do not need to shove these costs to another level of government,” Eltife told Evans. “At one time, cuts were made to mental health, and (patients) all showed up in emergency rooms.”

They show up in the jails, too. Greg notes that the last line of defense against cuts to state mental health services may be the county judges, which includes a fair number of newly-elected Republicans. Surely these folks are aware of the stakes, and the consequences for their own bottom lines. Go back and listen to my interview with Ed Emmett, as we discussed this very subject. Being a Republican who wanted to see more Republicans get elected, Emmett downplayed concerns about what the state might do to mental health services. That’s fine – I’d have expected an equally partisan answer from a Democratic County Judge – but now that all those Republicans have been elected, it’s on him and his colleagues to make sure they don’t turn around and screw them and their counties next spring. Which they will do, unhesitatingly and unrepentantly, in the absence of any meaningful pushback. I look forward to seeing that happen, since my tax dollars are on the line, too.

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