Mental health workers support Medicaid expansion to help mentally ill

Mental health workers support Medicaid expansion to help mentally ill

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A new national report slams Louisiana's mental health system, saying it ranks as one of the country's worst.

Mental Health America ranks the Bayou State 47th in mental healthcare, meaning Louisiana has among the most cases of mental illness, and those people have a hard time finding help.

The organization says the Jindal Administration now expanding mental healthcare for the poor from one insurance company to five is a step in the right direction.

It's Governor Jindal's latest measure in privatizing Medicaid.

The rollout started Tuesday.

"We believe that's a strong move for this state," said Brittany Howard, Executive Director, Mental Health America of Louisiana. "We believe that it will increase access to care."

Howard is even more optimistic for the man succeeding Jindal.

John Bel Edwards campaigned hard to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

The governor-elect says that would bring coverage to hundreds of thousands of people, including many of the mentally ill.

His transition team provided a statement to 9News Wednesday saying, "Medicaid Expansion will certainly impact access to mental health services positively because when more people are insured, more can access services."

"It's going to help us to not be at the bottom of the rankings," said Howard.

State Treasurer John Kennedy is not entirely opposed to the Medicaid expansion, but he warns what it would cost taxpayers, even if thousands of the mentally ill might be helped.

"If we don't control the costs of Medicaid, we're not going to have any money left for LSU, or Southern, or Baton Rouge Community College, or roads, or bridges, or coastal restoration," said Kennedy.

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