Remember that we must all now tighten our belts? That austerity policies are the new panacea for an economic depression? Why a further suppression of consumer demand is seen as a cure for a problem of insufficient consumer demand beats me. But whatever the advisability of austerity in this already-austere climate, its effects will fall most painfully on the frailest among us.
When state governments cut, cut and cut their budgets, someone will bleed, as this example demonstrates:
The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), an organization of state mental health directors, estimates that in the last three years states have cut $3.4 billion in mental health services, while an additional 400,000 people sought help at public mental health facilities.
In that same time frame, demand for community-based services climbed 56 percent, and demand for emergency room, state hospital and emergency psychiatric care climbed 18 percent, the organization said.
"This wasn't one round of cuts," says Ted Lutterman, director of research analysis at NASMHPD Research Institute. "It was three or four for many states, and multiple cuts during the year."
If the economy doesn't improve, next year could be worse because many community mental health agencies are cutting programs and using up reserve funds, says Linda Rosenberg, president of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.
"It's been horrible," she said. "Those that need it the most - the unemployed, those with tremendous family stress - have no insurance."
In the emergency room, this increased demand has meant doctors and social workers are spending hours and sometimes days trying to arrange care for psychiatric patients languishing in the emergency department, taking up beds that could be used for traditional types of trauma.
More than 70 percent of emergency department administrators said they have kept patients waiting in the emergency department for 24 hours, according to a 2010 survey of 600 hospital emergency department administrators by the Schumacher Group, which manages emergency departments across the country.
The title of this post is all wrong. It's not the people who sow the austerity politics who do the hardest reaping. And that's the reason why they keep advocating such policies.