Slashing spending for mental health services in Tennessee is like "cutting little pieces of the fingers off," a Cabinet member told Gov. Bill Haslam Wednesday during the third day of public hearings on the next state budget.
Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney described $15 million in potential cuts in the state's mental health and alcohol and drug abuse services. Most of those programs were paid for this past year with federal economic stimulus money.
“With this safety net, we can’t just keep cutting little pieces of the fingers off," Varney told the governor. "Pretty soon the hands won’t work. I think we may have to decide to cut a finger off here or there, and that’s what we do. At least the hands will still work,”
Also Wednesday, Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said the state could save $4 million by eliminating the positions of 29 highway patrol troopers and 26 driver's license workers. But he warned Tennesseans would wait longer at driver's license centers and the highway patrol would cover less territory.
"Obviously, it would stretch us if we had to make that cut," he said.