How’s Your State Compare? Spending on Mental Health

(12-12-17) I’m in Richmond today participating in a meeting about mental health priorities for incoming Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Meanwhile, I want to share a study being released today. 

New Study Reveals Shameful Eight-Fold Difference in Percentage of State Funds Allocated to Helping Mentally Ill. 

  • Maine, Pennsylvania and Arizona are the most generous states. 
  • Arkansas, West Virginia, Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Delaware are the stingiest states.  

Mental Illness Policy Org just released the first study to rank all fifty states based on the percentage of state-controlled funds that each state spends on mental illness. States that spend a higher percentage of their overall budget on mental illness are ranked as generous and those that spend a lower percentage of their overall budget on mental illness are ranked as stingy. Put another way, this report describes which states have been “naughty or nice” to the mentally ill.

Funds for Mental Illness found the most generous states in mental health spending are Maine, Pennsylvania and Arizona. The stingiest states are Arkansas, West Virginia, Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Delaware. The most generous states, Maine and Pennsylvania (5.6%), allocate eight times more as a percentage of total state spending than the stingiest state, Arkansas (.7%).

Percentage of Total State Expenditures Allocated to Mental Illness

This study which uses percentage of budget spent on mental illness as the metric is superior to studies that have ranked states on total mental health spending or per-capita spending because those studies fail to account for the fact that poorer states have less funds to spend. 

“Funds for Treating Individuals with Mental Illness: Is Your State Generous or Stingy?” was researched by D J Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org and author of Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill and Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center.

Jaffe cautioned that “equally important as the percentage of funds allocated to mental health services is whether the states allocate the funds effectively.” Jaffe said, “Mental Illness Policy Org found that New York and California allocate a respectable proportion of their budgets to mental health, but waste a high portion on programs that do not help persons with serious mental illness.”

The authors urge legislators to allocate a higher percentage of their state budgets to programs proven to reduce homelessness, arrest, incarceration, needless hospitalization and violence in people with serious mental illness.

“Throwing money at mental health is not the same as treating the seriously ill,” said Mr. Jaffe.

Percentage of Total State Expenditures Allocated to Mental Illness

Maine 5.6

North Carolina 2.4

 Alabama 1.5

Pennsylvania 5.6

Iowa 2.3

 Illinois 1.5

Arizona 4.8

Washington 2.3

Rhode Island 1.4

New York 3.9

Alaska 2.1

South Carolina 1.3

New Jersey 3.8

New Mexico* 1.9

Massachusetts 1.2

New Hampshire 3.7

Ohio 1.9

Texas 1.2

Montana 3.5

South Dakota 1.9

Florida* 1.1

Vermont 3.4

Tennessee 1.9

Wyoming 1.1

California 3.2

Georgia 1.9

North Dakota 1.1

Maryland 3.1

Indiana 1.8

Delaware 1.0

Minnesota 3.0

 Colorado 1.8

Louisiana 1.0

Connecticut 2.8

 Virginia 1.7

Oklahoma 1.0

Nevada 2.7

 Mississippi 1.7

Kentucky 0.9

Oregon 2.7

 Nebraska 1.7

Idaho 0.8

Kansas 2.6

 Utah 1.7

West Virginia 0.8

Michigan 2.6

 Hawaii 1.6

Arkansas   0.7

Missouri 2.5

 Wisconsin 1.5


The full study is available at

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.