State Wrap: Mental Illness In Arizona, Stimulus "Windfall" In Texas, Medicaid Expansion In Nebraska

Local newspapers report on health care issues including mental health in Arizona, the stimulus "windfall" in Texas and a family health insurance plan in Nebraska.

The Arizona Republic reports: "The number of seriously mentally ill people in Maricopa County has exploded in recent years, growing by 94 percent since 2000. It will grow another 45 percent by 2015, according to state estimates. ... The annual state audit of the system's performance that was released this year found it fails nearly all of its patients on key measures: placing them in stable housing and providing them with a job or other meaningful activity. Among those who have not been in jail or hospitalized for their illness, the system failed 86 percent. Among those who have, it failed 83 percent. Interviews with patients, providers, state officials and company executives reveal instability at every level of the system. ... The results are deadly: Nationally, the life expectancy of a mentally ill person is 25 years shorter than that of a healthy person. In Maricopa County, their life expectancy is 32 years shorter" (Newton, 8/30).

Austin American-Statesman reports: "When the federal government dangled $2 billion in front of the nation's 7,000 community health centers, the officials who run the public health clinics in Travis County suddenly turned up the heat on back-burner construction projects that had seemed unaffordable. ... Besides delivering health care to thousands of additional uninsured and underinsured people, the grant money that began flowing ... will add several dozen medical staffers to the payrolls of CommUnityCare and its counterpart, Georgetown-based Lone Star Circle of Care, officials said. It has helped Lone Star open its first clinic in Austin and renovate another" (Roser, 8/31).

Lincoln Journal Star reports: "Several thousand more Nebraska families will be able to get free health insurance for their children under an expansion of the public Kids Connection program. The state Legislature raised the income eligibility for Kids Connection in a law that becomes effective Sept. 1. Families with income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level - that's about $44,100 a year for a family of four - will be able to get health care for their children through Kids Connection. The law raises Nebraska's income ceiling from 185 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent, raising Nebraska from the bottom. Nebraska joins 15 states that set income eligibility at 200 percent of the federal poverty level" (Hicks, 8/29).

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