The state's direct cuts to behavioral and mental health programs add up to about $60 million, but the real impact reaches $104 million or more, says state Rep. Matt Heinz.
The indirect budget impacts include the toll of uncompensated care and the additional burden on law enforcement agencies, says Heinz, D-Tucson, who is also a physician. The state economy has suffered in the aftermath of the cuts as well, he adds.
"You have a situation where these cuts directly led to almost 2,000 case managers, nurses and employees in the mental health system laid off," Heinz says. It will be hard to attract those workers back in future years even if the funding is restored, he says.
So far, the Republican-led Legislature is still negotiating next year's state budget with Gov. Jan Brewer. Heinz says the Democrats in the Legislature agree with the governor's proposal to restore about $39 million to mental health services.
The cuts have also affected individuals who rely on services in the state mental health system.