Commentary: Kentucky feeling budget pain

This editorial appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

As the economy declines, child abuse rises. So do suicide, hunger and homelessness.

The social safety net is most frayed when it's most needed.

Even in good times, Kentucky's needs overwhelm its resources.

Ask Ginny Ramsey, who runs a shelter in Lexington and has quit sending clients to the state-supported mental-health agency because they have to wait two or three months to see a doctor.

Chronically underfunded, community mental-health agencies lost $3.5 million in state funding this year. Gov. Steve Beshear wants to protect mental health from further immediate cuts by increasing excise taxes on tobacco.

But even with that protection, Kentucky's mental-health system will still be near collapse.

Mental health centers are reducing staff, consolidating and killing programs, and turning away non-paying patients unless they have a severe illness such as schizophrenia. Callers to a mental-health crisis line in Louisville face such a long wait that they just hang up.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.