Several hundred advocates for mental health and substance abuse treatment rallied outside the State House in Annapolis Thursday for legislation that would ensure minimum funding for providers of such service in the annual state budget.
Providers, lawmakers, patients and their families joined to press for the Behavioral Health Coalition's agenda under the theme of "keep the door open" to provide the money to keep treatment programs in business.
"We can't let community health providers drift in the wind during every budget cycle," said Del. Anthony Hayes, a Baltimore Democrat who is House sponsor of the Keep the Open Door Act. The measure would require the governor's budget to include adjustments each year to cover the cost of reimbursing providers of such services.
Sen. Guy Guzzone of Howard County, a Democrat who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, urged his colleagues to support "the medical professionals and direct care staff who have been doing more with less for far too long."
Advocates say providers have only had six "modest" increases over the past 20 years to account for medical inflation.
Trish Todd, a Caroline County mother of a son with mental health problems, described her family's troubles in obtaining treatment for the young man, now 23.
"Families should get the treatment they need -- not the treatment they have to settle for,' she said. Todd said she was there to tell the General Assembly, "Don't shut the door on my son."
The advocates also urged passage of a bill by Del. Sandy Rosenberg and Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, both Baltimore Democrats, that would require the state health department to devise a plan to make clinical crisis teams available to people in need on a 24/7, year-round basis.