A Year of Firsts for Mental Health
(Dec. 16, 2013) In the year following the Dec. 14 mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, reforms across the country show that public officials might just be getting serious about addressing the nation’s broken mental health system.
Last week, the White House announced that it will devote $100 million to increasing access to “mental health services.”
Later in the week Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” which aims to provide help to the most severely ill patients and their families. The proposed changes include exemptions to the HIPAA privacy rule, funding for mandatory outpatient treatment programs and clarification of standards that allow involuntary outpatient and treatment.
Earlier in November, the mental health community cheered when the Obama administration announced regulations that help make mental health parity a reality. Under the Affordable Care Act private insurers will now be required to provide coverage for mental illness equal to what they provide for physical illnesses.
At the state level, nearly a dozen state legislatures passed or improved their laws that determine who receives court-ordered treatment for symptoms of severe mental illness. In the same period, thirty-six states and the District of Columbia increased funding for mental health.
We’ve seen a new and real public and political resolve to address the issues that involve people with serious mental illness, and the resulting breakthroughs will help lower barriers to treatment for severe mental illness, but many remain.
A half-century of abandonment and neglect will not be reversed by a single banner year (“USA has made slight progress on mental health since Newtown,” USA Today). Help us keep the momentum going:
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