I wanted to call attention to a bipartisan movement (yes, you read that correctly–BIPARTISAN!!!) in the Senate to improve community mental health. Both sides of the aisle are realizing that community mental health is woefully underfunded, and the lack of access to services can, in extreme cases, have grave consequences (as the past year’s mass shootings have demonstrated.)
While the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act passed the Senate, the Excellence in Mental Health Act has stalled. What does that mean? How can we, as concerned citizens, help turn it around?Here’s what the Excellence in Mental Health Act would do, according to the press release by Senators Stabenow and Blunt (the sponsors):
• Establishes criteria to ensure more community providers can serve more people and offer a broad range of mental health services, including:
o 24-hour crisis psychiatric services
o Integrated preventive screenings with mental health services to ensure more comprehensive care
o Integrated treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, including cognitive behavioral therapy
o Expanded peer support and counselor services for patients and families
• Provides an incentive to achieve these new standards by allowing behavioral health services to be reimbursed under Medicaid, just like other providers are reimbursed for comprehensive primary care services.
And why do we need these services?
As I mentioned, in the most extreme (and rare) cases, it can help prevent mass shootings. Just think of the case of a Georgia bookkeeper who talked down a heavily armed potential school shooter by helping him realize what he needed most was his medication. That was a happy ending. Many are not.
But it’s sad for me, as a therapist, that we have to invoke the most extreme cases in order to justify serving the most vulnerable. Because in the vast majority of situations, the person suffering most with an untreated mental illness is that person himself (or herself.) There are also his or her family members and friends.
And human suffering of this nature should not be tolerated in a nation where we know how to alleviate it. It should be a priority in this nation to help. Where our government spends money should reflect what we value.
If you value our collective mental health, then please take action to support this bill. Here’s a link to tell you how. Thanks for reading and, hopefully, for passing it on.
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Last reviewed: 1 Nov 2013