Massachusetts governor gets mixed reviews for mental health advocacy, policies: 4 things to know

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has served as the state's secretary of health and human services and as CEO of one of the state's largest insurers, yet he faces criticism over his mental healthcare advocacy and policies, according to The Boston Globe.

Here is a rundown of what Mr. Baker as done to address mental health issues in his state and what pundits find he has failed to do. The Globe reports that several of these proposals were made after the newspaper's Spotlight Team documented shortcomings in the state's mental healthcare system after mental a network of psychiatric hospitals closed decades ago. (Read that report here.)                                                                       

  1. Mr. Baker's 2018 budget contains a 1.6 percent increase for the Department of Mental health, which is smaller than the rate of inflation. His policy of refusing to raise taxes leaves little room to increase funding.
  1. However, Mr. Baker did obtain a $400 million federal waiver that increases the mental and behavioral health funding for MassHealth, the state's low income insurance program. His office estimates that MassHealth will spend $1.2 billion on behavioral health in the next year.
  1. Mr. Baker proposed $2 million to keep the mentally ill out of jail with police training programs, as well as $37 million to rehabilitate the state's largest prison for the mentally ill.
  1. Perhaps what advocates are most disappointed over is that Mr. Baker has not given enough public attention to mental health issues that they believe deserve a greater spotlight. Mr. Baker has some of the highest popularity ratings of any governor in the country, as well as a background in healthcare, yet has not made mental illness the priority that some believe it should be. Though his administration has given money to certain mental health-related causes listed above, the fact that this came after a high-profile Boston Globe report and not as a result of proactive policy worries some within the field.

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