Mental health sector braces for sequestration - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Mental health sector braces for sequestration

There are two programs at the Mental Health Center of Madison County that could see some big changes: the substance abuse and the homeless outreach programs. There are two programs at the Mental Health Center of Madison County that could see some big changes: the substance abuse and the homeless outreach programs.
MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

We face a huge deadline Friday to avoid tens of billions in cuts being made automatically to the budget. These are cuts that could start stinging Americans in weeks.

Long-term jobless workers could see cuts in checks by the middle of March, and government workers might be opening furlough notices by next week.

President Barack Obama said it doesn't have to be this way.

With the sequestration deadline looming, workers at mental health facilities are bracing themselves for the possible cuts.

They said if their funds are cut off, they will have to change the number of people they help and how they help them.

There are two programs at the Mental Health Center of Madison County that could see some big changes: the substance abuse and the homeless outreach programs.

Workers say they are usually the only option for people in need, so they need every employee and every dollar that comes in.

"We rely heavily on local state and federal funding, and that's why this threat is so concerning," said Brian Davis, executive director at the Mental Health Center of Madison County.

Davis said if federal funds are cut, two of his programs that deal with substance abuse and homeless outreach could be in trouble if lawmakers don't make a decision soon.

"Those would be at risk for either elimination or cutbacks, and those programs have been around a long time, and we serve hundreds of people that we are really their primary low cost option for substance abuse treatment," he said.

Davis said if the programs see cutbacks, it will show in the way they run.

"If the economy of Huntsville and Madison County is impacted, then eventually they will have no choice but to have to cut back their support of non profits like us," said Davis. "It would create waiting lists or impair the access to care."

…Care that Davis said is desperately needed.  Last year, his facility helped 8500 people with 250 workers, and those numbers will go down if the amount of money coming in goes down with it.

"Really in this day and age, the need for mental health treatment is there more than ever," Davis said.

He said those programs have been around for at least 40 years, and he hopes they will be able to keep them so they can keep helping people in need.

Copyright 2013 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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