All citizens of Wyoming should have access to affordable health care including mental healthcare. Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is not possible without good physical and mental health.

Without good physical and mental health, you may experience a loss of freedom. If you are confined to a wheelchair due to poor physical health resulting from lack of access to affordable healthcare, you have lost your freedom. If you have a substance abuse disorder and lack the resources to pay for treatment or don’t have insurance coverage, or find that treatment is unavailable or access to it requires waiting for weeks for months, your untreated disorder could lead to incarceration and loss of freedom.

The Department of Corrections claims 70% of the inmate population is in need of Residential Substance Abuse Treatment. Recent cuts and the elimination of some of these programs including Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs have led to increased recidivism and return to prison, where the cost is on average $145 daily. A Youth Treatment Court Judge, stated that 75% of her cases are substance abuse or mental health related. Yet when we heard from the state’s Mental Health Centers, they said that recent cuts to the Department of Health’s budget have resulted in a significant reduction in services and program closures. The budget for these services has been cut 10-16% or a return to 2006 funding levels.

These cuts and loss of services have a negative impact on the citizens of our great state. Our suicide rate is one of the highest in the nation. We are shipping inmates out of state due to space shortages at tremendous expense to all of us. Treatment for mental health and substance abuse is effective, but only if it is available.

A partial solution is to accept federal support through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for Medicaid expansion. The ACA is clearly here to stay and is still a potentially good deal for Wyoming, bringing in an estimated $268 million and providing coverage to 20,000 Wyoming residents. Waivers are now being accepted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) for work requirements and co-pays. I would not be opposed to the requirements given that an estimated 70% of that population already works. However, not all are able to work due to physical or mental disabilities and they should not be required to do so.

Hollis on Health Care