I received a phone call from my friend Peter (not his real name). He was calling to let me know that the mental health services he had been receiving over many years were being eliminated. He asked me if I would write a letter telling his story. I said I would.
I met Peter when he was a high school student in my youth ministry program at a church in town. He had many cognitive and social challenges resulting from an illness he acquired as an infant.
Peter loved participating in all our youth activities and service programs. He made friends and graduated from high school. But as he grew older his problems worsened. He required a more restrictive environment and spent several years at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs.
After his discharge, he acquired a team of mental health providers to support his independent living situation. Over the past 20 years, thanks in part to the support of these services, Peter has led a healthy and productive life.
In his conversations with me he told me he would be losing his case manager and special services provider (stress management therapist) as well as many of his Medicaid benefits. He wanted to let people know that people like him who rely on the mental health services were frustrated and scared about their future.
I called the mental health services in the town where Peter resides and they confirmed the cuts.
Health department director, Sheila Hogan, was reported in the IR on Feb. 2, to have said that she blames the state legislature’s refusal to approve even a modest tax increase to shore up the state budget.
In the coming year, when many of us receive our promised federal tax cuts and see our state taxes remain flat, we should not forget where this money is coming from – from our least fortunate brothers and sisters.