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Report: Idaho Institutionalization Costs Are Sky-High

July 29, 2008

Boise, ID – Idaho is a big spender when it comes to putting people with disabilities into institutional care. A report from the Institute on Community Integration finds Idaho spends almost $700 a day for each person in institutionalized care, while the national average is about $480 a day.

Kelly Buckland, with the Idaho State Independent Living Council, says that's too much.

"You could actually buy somebody their own house, and a chauffeured limousine–-all kinds of stuff--for that kind of money."

Buckland compares these figures with what Idahoans spend on home-based care: about $200 a day. He says that is now the preferred way to care for people with disabilities, and the state should consider moving more people into homes, if that is appropriate. Some families prefer keeping a relative in institutionalized care, Buckland acknowledges, and says he respects that decision.

Buckland expects Idaho's costs for institutionalized care to rise sharply because of a "mental health jail" now being built. He says advocates for people with disabilities tried to stop the construction because they feel it will encourage people with mental illness to be treated like criminals, instead of people who need health care.

"We introduced a resolution last year that they shouldn't be able to jail people who have not committed any kind of a crime, or who are not dangerous. The Speaker put ours in the drawer."

However, backers of the new facility say it will help get treatment to people who need it.

The full report is available at ici.umn.edu.

Deborah Smith/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - ID