Substance-abuse agency would lose half of funds

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:07 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Department of Mental Health opened its books to a Senate committee Monday amid protests against Gov. Matt Blunt’s proposed cuts.

Department director Dorn Schuffman told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the division of alcohol and drug abuse would lose nearly half its funding to Blunt’s proposed Medicaid cuts, which total about $12 million.

“We would see a 45 percent reduction in the coverage program if these cuts go through,” Schuffman said.

The division’s costs were an estimated $23 million last year.

Blunt has allotted $480.6 million for mental health services in his budget, a 7.9 percent decrease from last year.

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, co-chairman of the appropriations committee, said the cuts were necessary.

“We have the second-most-expensive Medicaid program in the country,” Nodler said. “And we are soon to be number one.”

Medicaid cuts have met much opposition since Blunt announced them during his State of the State address in January. Linda Grgurich of Preferred Family Healthcare, a provider of comprehensive mental health services, was at the Capitol on Monday to voice her displeasure.

“We’ve been here two days a week since Blunt proposed his budget,” Grgurich said. “We’re taking a disproportionate cut.”

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