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AZ Human Service Providers: "Cut Now, Pay Much More Later"

March 23, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – Budget cuts for services such as behavioral health care, family intervention and drug treatment will wind up adding millions more to the state deficit in a matter of months, according to advocates for at-risk adults and children. Emily Jenkins, president and CEO of the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, says the state has reduced outpatient mental health services for uninsured working Arizonans.

"When you don't provide that treatment, then what you end up with is people in a residential treatment facility at maybe five hundred dollars a day, or you end up with people in a psychiatric in-patient hospital at eight hundred, a thousand dollars a day."

Jenkins says those denied outpatient care will also become much sicker and require longer treatment, and she says eliminating in-home services for families with abuse and neglect issues means children will be removed to costly foster homes.

"So you've gone from a three thousand dollar a year service to 18 thousand a year, which is what it costs the state to provide foster care services for a year."

On a similar note, Jenkins says denying someone outpatient substanceabuse treatment at 14 hundred dollars a year often results in prison time costing 24 thousand dollars a year.

Jenkins says the cuts are producing a human cost as well. For example, she says children coming out of foster care have a tough time both socially and in school.

"There are studies that indicate that children who are in foster care for extended periods of time get as much post-traumatic stress disorder as someone who is a war veteran."

Lawmakers made the cuts to remedy a 1.6 billion dollar budget gap this year, but must now overcome a shortfall twice as large for next year.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is urging lawmakers to resolve the state's grave budget situation with a combination of spending cuts, tax increases and federal stimulus money.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ