USM professor: Proposed mental health cuts will be 'devastating'

USM professor: Proposed mental health cuts will be 'devastating'

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A University of Southern Mississippi professor said proposed new budget cuts for the State Department of Mental Health will end up costing the state more money in the long run.

Susan Hrostowski, an associate professor of Social Work, said some mental health programs are already suffering from past budget cuts.

Wednesday, the Senate passed an appropriations bill to slash $4.8 million from the general fund.

Those cuts, along with others to special funds and those ordered by Gov. Bryant, could bring a total budget reduction of $45 million.

Legislators supporting those cuts to the general fund said they are necessary.

They also said the cuts are nearly equal to funding increases given to the department over the last five years.

But, Hrostowski said the cuts will hurt those needing mental health services.

"I don't think (some legislators) understand mental illness as an illness and they do not understand the consequences of what they're doing, these kinds of cuts," said Hrostowski. "They will be devastating to whole families and whole communities."

"In the long run, we'll be seeing more people in emergency rooms, we'll be seeing more people having to be hospitalized in our state hospitals, if we cut mental health," Hrostowski said.

The cuts would mostly come from vacant positions, equipment and travel expenses.