State must address mental health issues

As a former mental health provider, I read with great interest the investigative News article on the structure of the mental health system. There are many variables that were left out of this article that should have been included.

Back in the late 1980s, the state withdrew from outpatient services because it was a cost-cutting move to decrease services to individuals who did not have the power to advocate for themselves. The state turned services over to non-profit companies that did not have to pay the high salaries and benefits provided to state employees.

In 1990, I made $24,000 with no pension despite being a licensed clinician with a master’s degree. Three years ago, I was offered a job at a local agency making $32,000 a year with no pension plan despite having almost 20 years of experience.

Local mental health agencies often have to “overbook” to make their units of service survive, and any increase in salary is based on productivity. The end result is high burnout for experienced clinicians. With budgets stretched, it is far more popular to allocate funds toward “more favorable services” versus individuals who are mentally ill.

The problems expressed in this article are not new by any means, but thanks for bringing the issue to the front page of The Buffalo News.

Renee Muscato, BSN, LCSW-R