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Nearly 100 people stood outside the County Administration Center at 700 H Street on Tuesday at noon, while the County Board of Supervisors Meeting had its lunch break. Consisting of mental health patients, mental health clinicians, and their supporters, the gatherers protested proposed mental health budget cuts being discussed in the meeting.
"We have 2,400 clients, and by June 31, we have to cut our number of clients to 1,000; it's kind of hard to let go of all of those mental health patients," said Marilyn Washington, a member of the regional support team for Turning Point Community Programs, a mental health agency.
"It's going to cost the city more money, since we are the ones who help [the patients figure out their] SSI, medicare, and everything else, but the biggest issue is people ending up without mental health services," she added.
"Because of the impact on people receiving services, the county will lose more money since it will cost more for hospitals, law enforcement, and ER — some patients may even risk dying," added Amedu Kyubwa, a case manager for Turning Point. In addition to being a case manager, Kyubwa helped start a petition against cutting funds for mental health services which has gathered a total of 1200 signatures - 500 online, 700 by hand.
Kyubwa, who helped create the website savementalhealthservices.org, said that there was a good turnout at the rally by people who were in mental health services.
There was also a big turnout of mental health patients, like Lilian, who did not give her last name. "They cut services to people who need it most, like the mentally ill, disabled, and homeless, because they are not a large enough group," said Lilian, who lives in Cardosa Village, an apartment complex which provides transitional housing for the homeless who are diagnosed with a mental illness.
By 1 p.m. the crowd had thinned to several dozen people, and the crowd dispersed completely at 1:30, half an hour before the scheduled end of the rally, due to rain.