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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Action Plan For Mental Health Care Reform

by French Hill: Progress is vital to the future of any nation, especially one that is in constant competition to maintain its designation as the greatest in the world.

For the last century, America has been the leader in global progress.

Our space program produced the first lunar landing, and our pursuit of that endeavor birthed a generation of unthinkable and rapid technological advancement. Our scientists, doctors, and researchers have developed vaccines, cures, and treatments that have eradicated deadly diseases or turned them into minor afflictions.

This is the mark of a great society. But a society that wants to remain great must always identify its weaknesses and create long-term solutions to move beyond any major roadblock. Tragically, one area where we have failed to achieve much progress over the past few decades is addressing our nation's mental health crisis. The last major mental health reform happened during the Kennedy administration, meaning 50 years of limited advancement in assuring quality access to mental health care for the millions of Americans suffering from mental illness.

Too many Americans have seen someone in their own lives suffer from a debilitating mental illness. The true scope of this crisis is not just in the anecdotal stories told by those who have watched in horror as loved ones fail to get the help they need; the statistical data paint an even bleaker picture for how deeply this problem runs.

One in five Americans struggle with some form of a mental illness. Ten million Americans suffer from a serious mental illness--four million of whom receive no treatment. Making the situation even more grim is that mental illness manifests at young enough ages where rehabilitation and treatment should be attainable.

Our failure in addressing this problem has poisoned the lives of millions of people and robbed them of tools needed to overcome their afflictions and become productive members of society.

In addition, those who suffer from untreated severe mental illness are increasingly more likely to carry out violent crimes. Instead of getting the help they need, so many people end up leading troubled lives, serving time in jail, or dead at their own hands. Local jails house 10 times more people with mental illness than do psychiatric hospitals.

There are over 40,000 suicides annually (nearly 8,000 are our veterans). That is one almost every 12 minutes, and it is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

Two-thirds of gun deaths in this country are suicides. While there are no data to contextualize the percentage of mass shootings carried out by those who are mentally ill, we know that in some of the most horrifying mass shootings in recent American history--Tucson, Sandy Hook, Aurora--the perpetrators suffered from some form of mental illness.

These are sobering statistics that should make us sick to our stomachs and that should activate change.

That isn't representative of the America that put a man on the moon. That is not our shining city on a hill. This is a weakened version of the America we know.

However, last week, as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, Congress repackaged our major mental health reform care bill that addresses many of the shortcomings in our mental health-care system.

This bill, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, refocuses and retools mental health programs and creates a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary position to oversee and coordinate mental health programs and policies. It also addresses severe shortages in our mental health work force and treatment facilities, increasing the inpatient bed space to ensure patients have access to quality mental health care. This bill also aims to clarify privacy laws to ensure that health care professionals can communicate with caregivers of persons with serious mental illness when necessary.

This bill is an important first step in reforming our outdated mental health-care system at the federal level, but states can also re-evaluate their civil commitment laws to ensure those in psychiatric crisis can get treatment. Most states require an individual to be an imminent danger to himself or others to be eligible for civil commitment--a very high standard to meet. A need-for-treatment standard can help those who are persistently disabled by their untreated mental illness.

By recognizing additional standards--and different levels of commitment--states could help the severely mentally ill get treatment before reaching the point of imminent danger.

Maintaining our status as the greatest nation in the world is dependent upon our ability to address the spate of mental illness in our country. Right now, our broken system is failing millions of Americans. But today, we have the blueprint for a plan to fix this problem.

Correcting this national tragedy will be difficult, but a truly great nation will succeed no matter the obstacle. And we are a great nation.
----------------------
U.S. Representative French Hill represents Arkansas' 2nd District. His article was provided by his office and previously ran on Arkansas Democrat Gazette -Arkansas Online

Tags: Action Plan, Mental Health Care Reform, French Hill, U.S. Represnetative, Arkansas To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 3:00 PM - Post Link

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