It doesn’t matter how many well-meaning words are said about mental health reform, policy changes need to happen before we can start to see the kind of hopeful results we need.
It might happen soon under the promising Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this month.
With a staggering vote of 422-2, the act gives us hope that Congress is finally going to do something about mental health reform.
We have been waiting for a long time.
H.R. 2646 will track inpatient psychiatric beds, increase funding for assisted outpatient care, give liability protections for volunteers at community health centers, and strengthen crisis responses.
It will also improve access to evidence-based mental health and substance use disorder programs, integrate behavioral health into pediatric primary care and provide more healthcare coverage for certain mental health services and prescriptions.
Even without the multitude of other great things this bill will do, like boosting awareness of eating disorders, it is a bright spot in the fight for mental health reform.
One paragraph shines brightest.
It says comprehensive community-based health system plans shall “include a description of the manner in which the State and local entities will coordinate services to maximize the efficiency, effectiveness, quality, and cost effectiveness of services and programs to produce the best possible outcomes … to enable individuals receiving services to function outside of inpatient or residential institutions, to the maximum extent of their capabilities [emphasis added], including services to be provided by local school systems under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”
Frustratingly, what’s described in that portion of the bill doesn’t exist in most places.
People have to do a lot of guessing and jumping through hoops just to get help.
When they do get it, it’s usually when issues have escalated to a scary degree.
The elements of this bill are needed desperately. People suffering from mental health issues are no different from those dealing with physical maladies and should be treated as such.
They just need help, resources and community support, and we should be able to give to them.