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As the Tide Turns, a Sea Change for Mental Health?

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(Feb. 26, 2013) Mental-health advocates coast-to-coast are seeing a “rare and unexpected” interest in plugging the gaps in America’s mental-health-care system, according to a story by Washington Post reporters Brady Dennis and Lena H. Sun (“After Newtown, support for mental-health spending grows,” Feb. 23).

map“In the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., lawmakers from both parties, along with notoriously tight-belted governors, are pushing to restore some of the estimated $4.3 billion in mental-health spending that was slashed from state budgets between 2009 and 2012,” their story reported. “At the same time, they are weighing new initiatives, such as adding beds at psychiatric hospitals and improving treatment for inmates with behavioral disorders.”

Treatment Advocacy Center Executive Director Doris A. Fuller was quoted at length. “We are seeing interest in reform in states that haven’t looked at it in a decade or more. . . . It’s certainly created opportunities that we have rarely seen before. We’re trying to improve the laws in such a way that legal barriers to timely and effective treatment are removed.”

Although Fuller applauded the attention, she said that “given the limited resources, the focus should be on those with the most severe mental illnesses — a population also at the highest risk for violence.”

Many of the bills introduced this legislative season do just that. Bills to authorize assisted outpatient treatment have been introduced in three of the states without AOT: Connecticut, Nevada and Massachusetts. Legislation to broaden overly restrictive inpatient standards are under consideration or in the works.

“The budget cuts of recent years have translated to fewer beds at psychiatric hospitals, fewer crisis centers and decreased access to treatment for low-income patients,” the Post reported. “The tide, advocates hope, is beginning to shift.”

The Treatment Advocacy Center not only hopes the tide is beginning to shift. We’re working to turn it every single day.

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