LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Clients and staff of Volunteers of America hit the road to Baton Rouge this morning. They went hoping to deliver a message to lawmakers that behavioral health matters-- and that cuts to Medicaid would hurt those with mental illness, substance abuse problems and developmental disabilities.
It was early morning at on VOA Oak Park Blvd., as staff and clients gathered for a road trip. They went to join others from around the state to rally on the steps of the capitol. Tamika Perrodin, who has mental illness, says they go with posters and signs hoping lawmakers will get their point:
"Think about it this way. What if it was your child. What if it was your mother. What if it was your mother-in-law. What if it was you. Would you be willing to cut the budgets then?"
Victoria Courville is a case manager, but also a peer because she has schizoaffective disorder. She says she functions well with medicine, but still hears voices.
"The voices are permanent as I'm over 25, and some days are better than others. But I'm a well functioning part of society. I come to work everyday,"said Courville.
Courville says it's rare that the lawmakers actually come outside and speak with them.
"The senators are usually busy and don't come out to see people but I'm hoping that this year, that would change," she said.
She hopes their presence will make lawmakers realize that mental health and substance abuse services are vital for some people in the community.
"It's really hard for people to obtain medication, health insurance and pay the rent. So, for some people it's a choice between paying the rent and having their psychiatric medication," she said.
She made a sign to carry.
"The poster says, 'I know someone well, you know someone well. They have mental illness.' I put that on a poster because one in four people have mental health issues and what people don't realize is that people who have mental illness are your neighbors, your friends and in my case they might even be the person looking in the mirror," she said.
VOA officials say as many as 2000 clients statewide could lose services if cuts are implemented and that 500 employees would lose their jobs.