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The President's Budget and Mental Health: How It Could Cost You

Why taking money from Medicaid may not save anything at all, say patients, health care professionals

INDIANAPOLIS--If you have schizophrenia you can walk down the street, doing what you normally do, and suddenly be in another world. You can suddenly feel like everyone is after you. It's nothing you can control, unless you're getting the proper medication.

That medication, of course, costs a lot, and some people cannot afford it without Medicaid or other forms of government assistance.

The president's budget would take a chunk away from federal Medicaid dollars, about $800 billion per year. That means some people could lose part or all of their benefits if that budget passes and becomes law. That means some people with severe mental illnesses could be without their meds.

Meet Savannah

Savannah is a charming young lady. She has a job, an apartment, drives a car, everything that goes with a life that would not have been possible four years ago. Savannah has schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. With the weekly and monthly medications she gets at Adult and Child Health Services in Indianapolis, she says she is 90 percent recovered.

"Without medication I wouldn't be regulated. I wouldn't be where I am today," she said. "Without proper supports in place I think it's pretty much impossible or very difficult to recover. Without medication and therapy I would probably still be in the hospital."

Much of Savannah's medication is paid for by Medicaid.

The pharmacy says...

"A number of the medications and treatments that are used for some of these folks are very expensive," said Brad Goedeker, site manager of the pharmacy at Adult and Child, a Genoa pharmacy. "What's more expensive is when the folks decompensate and go to the hospital."

He pointed out that even short stays are expensive and end up costing everyone when the patient can't pay.

Not just Democrats

The issue reaches people of all political persuasions. Gary is on Medicaid and Medicare and between problems with his knees and diabetes and mental health services, sees seven doctors a week.

"There's an awful lot of people in the country that's dependent on that. And they're not ready for these cutbacks," he said. Gary supports Pres. Trump, but said he hopes the budget doesn't pass.

"This is the only bad thing I have against the man. But, I think it's gonna hurt tens of thousands of people."

What Rene' learned

Rene' believes she could end up on the street, or at the very least, going from one friend's house to another.

"If my care were to stop I would probably go back into depression pretty badly, probably go back into substance use and abuse pretty badly," she said. "It could get bad again. I could be homeless again. I could die even. It goes that far. That's how much this place has saved my life."

Rene' has a good job and has been stable with the therapy and medication.

"The more we can do to help that person thrive and stay out of the hospital, while expensive, is less expensive overall," said Goedeker. "And certainly we all know the cost of homelessness and folks not contributing to the economy and taking away additional resources."

Just the role of the pharmacy saves the federal government, and you, money, said a study by the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy. That study said that keeping people who need medication on those meds, saves about $700 per year.

PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis

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