Given the abundance of national news about health care reform, Mississippians may have failed to notice Governor Barbour”s “reform” in their own backyard. He vetoed $7 million that the state would normally provide to community mental health centers to match federal Medicaid funds. This forces the mental health centers to come up with $22 million to pay the state”s Medicaid. Since the centers already provide services at low or minimal cost to people who otherwise could not afford any care, they are unable to raise such sum. The result will be closure to some centers and drastic reduction of services in others.
Perhaps most Mississippians have not imagined consequences of these events. Have we thought about jammed emergency rooms or jails full of people who need treatment, not incarceration? Have we thought about sick people, partly or completely out of contact with reality wandering the streets and endangering themselves and others? The misery quotient for many will go up ten-fold. What will increase for the rest of us are robberies, other violent crimes, suicides and homicides. Is this a great way to save $7 million?
Governor Barbour is perhaps angling to establish his credentials as a hard-nosed fiscal conservative. It appears to matter little to him that his planned step up is stepping on the most helpless and needy in our community. Stepping up can also lead to stumbling down and that is likely to happen when this state begins experiencing the disastrous results of his $7 million fiasco.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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