Local Impact of Mental Health Cuts

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- Since the economic downturn in 2008, about $4.5 billion has been cut nationally from mental health care funding, according to 60 Minutes.

Mental health and substance abuse outpatient services suffered the biggest impact from the cuts.

The case of Gus Deeds isn't unique; in fact, one in four people will be affected by mental health issues at some point in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization.

Lacy Whitmore, the executive director of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board, said the cuts reduced administrative positions during a time when there was an increasing demand from the community.

Instead of providing individual treatment, the focus switched to group treatment services, so more people could be served on a limited staff; however, Whitmore said many people found this to be uncomfortable.

There was also a much bigger emphasis placed on the individuals attending the session.

"We had so many people wanting and needing to come into outpatient counseling services that we asked the individuals who were coming in that we needed them to, in essence, not miss appointments and pay more of the cost for those services," said Whitmore.

Whitmore also said we constantly get reminders from the tragedies we see occurring, which shows how seriously we need to take mental health services.

He said there are some steps that need to occur to fix this situation, from adequate funding to law changes.

A task force will continue looking into this issue Tuesday in Richmond.

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