Dangerous, mentally ill people are not being treated in Utah because of a lack of state money, and help cannot wait until the next legislative session, according to memebers of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
But Gov. Norm Bangerter, who met with members of the alliance Thursday morning, said money is scarce. He also warned there may be little money left for the mentally ill if voters approve three tax-limiting initiatives in November."If that occurs, these things (mental health needs) are all academic for a long time to come," Bangerter said. "We only have so much capacity. I think we're doing a good job with limited resources."
One of the people meeting with the governor, James Ragan, American Fork, said his mentally ill son chased him one day, firing seven shots from a gun before hitting him in the back. His son recently was released from the Timpanogos Mental Health Center and has not had medication in three months, Ragan said.
He believes his son should still be receiving care.
"He's controllable when he has medication," Ragan said.
Members of the alliance said the Division of Mental Health should have received money the state recently spent to buy computers and gave to the Division of Family Services. They also want $4.9 million to provide 180 beds for long-term patients and $1.4 million to expand the state hospital by 25 beds.
Without the extra facilities, the state will pay more to house the people in prison, said Jan Harding, administrator of the alliance.
"This is a crisis. We have sick people that need help," Harding said. "People commit suicide because they haven't had the proper treatment. We feel this is a real priority and we're not being heard.
"We really need this money badly to take care of acute cases or we will have very dangerous or suicidal people in the community. We already have."
State officials said the mental health services budget has fluctuated evenly with other budgets in the Department of Social Services.
But Harding said mental health funding has dropped from 2.27 percent of the state's budget in 1977 to 1.71 percent in 1987.
"We have been consistently cut," she said.
Bangerter said he could not give mental health more money now for fear of "opening a Pandora's box" of agencies asking for funds.
"Everyone in state government can come in and make a similar pitch to what you've made this morning," he said.
Bangerter urged the alliance to seek more money during the next legislative session.
Members of the alliance said they would fight to defeat the three tax-limiting initiates. If passed, the initiatives would limit property taxes, roll back tax increases approved by the 1987 Legislature and provide tax credits to the parents of children in private schools.
The cuts would take about $349 million from government budgets statewide. But supporters of the initiatives say governments could cut things other than social services.