- - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Our current mental health system is broken. More than 13 million Americans have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, and the majority of them are going without treatment. Families are struggling to find care for their loved ones. Furthermore, a patchwork of programs and policies spanning numerous federal and state agencies makes the task of managing mental illness challenging for physicians, providers, patients and their families. This is complicated by fragmented delivery and reimbursement systems that disregard parity laws, regulatory barriers, workforce shortages and the enduring stigma surrounding mental health.

As the leaders of our nation’s top mental health organizations, we represent people with mental illness, their loved ones and the professionals working to get them care. Each of our organizations has called on Congress – individually and in concert – to enact meaningful reform.

The good news is that Congress seems poised to act. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is scheduled today to markup the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who have been joined by more than 150 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.

The House bill and a similar comprehensive mental health reform bill in the Senate have broad, bipartisan support. This legislation would comprehensively address the issues faced by people with serious mental illness, as well as the 60 million Americans who live with a mental health or substance use disorder. We support these efforts and we urge members on both sides of the aisle to show their support for these important bills.

The bills offer meaningful solutions to our broken mental health system. They would greatly improve coordination between mental health and substance use initiatives across federal departments and agencies. A nationwide strategy to recruit and train the next generation of clinicians would help to improve access to treatment for those who need it. These bills also support innovative, evidence-based models of care that reduce long-term disability for individuals with serious mental illness or substance use disorders.

Americans need, deserve and increasingly are calling for reform – we have heard from tens of thousands of our members urging us to keep the pressure on Congress until legislation is passed. Today’s markup is an excellent opportunity to start the process toward passage.

Mental health reform would be a great accomplishment for Congress and the American public. We call on our leaders in the House and Senate to work together on legislation that will put mental health care on the same level as other serious medical illnesses. Our elected leaders have the opportunity to pass a comprehensive mental health law for the good of the nation, children and adults living with mental illness, their families, and the employers who lose when their employees are absent or not seeking or receiving treatment.

Our nation needs mental health reform, and we need it now.

Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. is CEO and Medical Director of the American Psychiatric Association. Paul Gionfriddo is President and CEO, Mental Health America.  Mark Covall is President and CEO, National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems.  Mary Giliberti, J.D. is Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness.  Barry S. Anton, Ph.D, ABPP is President, American Psychological Association.


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