Mental healthcare providers believe the government has just worsened an already bad situation. After the state enacted mental healthcare reforms in 2003, providers have complained the paperwork requirements significantly and negatively impact their ability to serve those in need. They now claim an unfunded mandate from the state, scheduled to go into effect in July, will create a greater bureaucracy, cost more, and force small providers out of business.

Under the new rules, mental health service providers must have a full-time psychiatrist on staff, national accreditation, and take on additional administrative duties in order to bill through Medicaid — which are tall orders for a small office of counselors.

It could be argued the cuts will only harm organizations accepting state and federal funds. Unfortunately, in this “mixed economy,” providers view the ability to accept reimbursements from Medicaid as necessary for survival. One might also argue that the maladies to be affected (e.e.g., substance abuse and depression) are more a matter of unsound, leisure-class choices than serious physiological disturbances.

Those in the trenches are complaining that government is throwing rules around without thinking about what will be necessary to implement them, and what devastation will be wrecked. Following the 2003 reform, providers complained state officials couldn’t explain exactly what the new regulations required, but hasty implementation was imperative. Providers are blaming the state’s mismanagement of revenues for causing it to make such an ill-considered decision. Workers in the mental healthcare field fault the state for ranking cost and coverage as higher priorities than meeting patients’ needs.

Giles Morris wrote an excellent article with several poignant quotes for the Smoky Mountain News.