Mental health systems are to be enhanced in the U.S., if the bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee is any indication of the nation’s support for progress to be made with those who suffer from mental illnesses. The current focus is on providing services to diagnose and treat those mental health patients that are at their breaking point. The goal is to prevent violence, especially gun violence, from occurring unnecessarily due to a person’s mental instability.
The bill is truly bipartisan, and has been created by Senator Deborah Stabenow of Michigan (D) and Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri (R). It has been named the Excellence in Mental Health bill. A very appropriate name, as there have been significant gaps in mental health issues for some thirty years.
The Public Health Service Act would be amended to update facilities and develop federally mandated behavioral health centers, which would operate in each state. These centers would be awarded grants to enhance their programs, services and environment. Native American behavioral centers would also be given matching grants for the treatment of those on reservations or for tribal members.
Each institution must be recertified every five years. This should maintain excellence within the mental health programs. If the House and Senate pass the bill, mental health systems in the US will be enhanced.
Cynthia Keele, Director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Missouri, recently wrote a letter to the editor of a local paper and said, “Unfortunately, our state rejected the Medicaid expansion that would have helped many people living with a mental illness who right now cannot get the health care they need.” Keele also noted, “This dialogue needs to continue in 2014. Most importantly, it must lead (to) action.”
Mental health care will also be covered more effectively by Medicaid, giving citizens better access to a field known for its exclusive access through private insurance and its rejection of many insurance policies.
Senator Stabenow stated that it was important to address the health issues that are “above the neck,” just as much as physical health issues are taken care of by the medical profession. Senator Blunt also noted that many of the recent events of violence have involved a perpetrator who has mental health issues that have not been addressed.
To top it off, actress Glenn Close spoke before Congress to give her support for the Excellence in Mental Health bill. She expressed a desire to have mental illnesses treated like any other physical disease, with less stigma and more support by physicians who might direct their patients to seek help and refer them on to a mental health professional. Close said that mental illness should be talked about, not whispered about.
The Senate Finance Committee predicted the cost over ten years of the bill would reach $1.6 billion. The proponents of the bill were sure it would pass the Senate, since they connected it to what they say is an “unquestionable requirement pass” bill to alter slices in installments to specialists that treat Medicare patients.
For the US, an enhancement of a mental health system which has not previously been able to afford to identify or care for those who display violent tendencies, should be a giant step towards excellence in mental health services.
By Lisa M Pickering