Twelve days after Jared Lee Loughner shot his way into the American psyche outside a Tuscon, Ariz., grocery store on Jan. 8, a 25-year-old mental health counselor in Revere was kidnapped from a group home and savagely killed, allegedly by one of her clients. Nine days later, it happened again when a homeless 19-year-old with a history of mental problems reportedly stabbed a shelter worker to death in Lowell, just 30 miles away.
No one can say for sure whether either murder had anything to do with funding cutbacks that have decimated the state’s mental health budget, but on the front lines in the war on mental illness, counselors are concerned.
“If you have one woman (counselor) and five men with mental health problems, it screams to me of mental health cuts,” Barry Sanders, a social worker for more than 20 years, says of the group home north of Boston where Stephanie Moulton was working when she was kidnapped and killed on January 20. “Having these kinds of staffing levels is like playing the odds, rolling the dice with someone’s life.”
Across Massachusetts, mental health agencies are feeling the strain of cutbacks that have ripped nearly $85 million from the state’s Department of Mental Health budget since 2009.
“It’s been devastation. Complete and utter destruction and devastation. The entire mental health system is shredded,says Laurie Martinelli, executive director with the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental health advocacy and research group.
Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Commissioner Barbara Leadholm takes a more diplomatic stance.
From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Worcester could become the closest Department of Mental Health area office for consumers in Western Massachusetts as the state considers a consolidation plan.
There are currently six areas of service in Massachusetts designated by the Department of Mental Health. Northampton hosts the office for the Western Massachusetts area on the grounds of the former Northampton State Hospital. The city that has long been a nexus for mental health services could soon be bereft of that resource, however.
The Western Massachusetts Area Community Advisory Board for the Department of Mental Health is asking the state to delay implementation of its plan to consolidate its six regional offices into three so advocates can more effectively plan for the change. Eric S. Brown, the board president, is hoping the department will reconsider its plan altogether.
“It makes absolutely no sense to close this particular office down,” he said, noting the void it would create from Worcester to the Berkshires. “How is someone from Williamstown going to get to Worcester?”