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Due to cuts, KMH discharges 261 mentally ill patients

Since Dec. 1 Kitsap Mental Health has discharged more than 260 seriously mentally ill people the agency could no longer pay to treat.

The mass discharge of people suffering from mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder comes after the state cut funding to a program that pays for treatment for those who do not qualify for Medicaid, which requires a person to be virtually indigent before qualifying.

Executive Director Joe Roszak said the agency had been treating 461 people in its outpatient program with the state dollars when the cuts took effect. By vetting each case, staff members found that 55 patients did qualify for Medicaid and that 14 were able to find alternative funding. Also, the agency is using dollars from other funds to help 111 non-Medicaid eligible patients with severe mental illnesses, an unsustainable plan which is straining the agency's other programs, Roszak said.

Additionally, Roszak said the agency has had to turn away about 100 people seeking treatment because they did not qualify for Medicaid.

The 261 patients who were discharged were given a transition plan so that their other doctors, or in some cases family members, would be able to help them continue with their treatment.

Because of the persistent, serious nature of their illnesses, Roszak said those who were discharged have very few options.

"You will see them in the ER, you will see them incarcerated, you will see them out in the streets and the bottom line is you will see more of them in the cemetery," Roszak said. "Those are the four options."

In all, the agency lost $817,000 in the cuts, as part of a $17.8 million statewide cut. Roszak said about $5.1 million may be restored.

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