New Mental Health Crisis Act Could Save Lives
Author: Justin Mckibben
These past few years have put mental illness and the way we as a nation address mental health care at a new degree of priority. Current events have shown time and time again how these issues can no longer be allowed to intensify. With mass shootings and other stories of horrific events stemming from tragic circumstances there has been increasing advocacy for progress in mental health care. Now one new mental health crisis act has passed through Congress and many hope it will be able to make a massive difference.
Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act
The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is a legislation intended to overhaul the American mental health care system. This week lawmakers made headway toward passing this initiative. The legislation seeks to augment treatment for serious mental illness, and Wednesday Congress has just given it the green light.
In a nearly unanimous vote of 422 to 2 the House of Representatives approved the bill. The plan it lays out is meant to push new preventive and proactive measures. Some include:
- Increase availability of psychiatric hospital beds
- Establish new assistant secretary for mental health and substance use disorders in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- Boost treatment for young mental health patients
Some background on the legislation shows that Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Tim Murphy introduced the bill. It was brought to lawmakers after the Sandy Hook tragedy. In regards to this new effort, Murphy stated:
“We are ending the era of stigma. Mental illness is no longer a joke, considered a moral defect and a reason to throw people in jail. No longer will we discharge the mentally ill out of the emergency room to the family and say, ‘Good luck, take care of your loved one, we’ve done all the law will allow.’ Today the House voted to deliver treatment before tragedy.”
Now it must survive the Senate before being put before President Obama.
How Could This Change the Nation?
Looking at a few of the issues the bill intends to address, these changes could change more than you think.
- Psychiatric Beds
The scarcity of psychiatric beds for mental health crisis patients has been a consistent crux of the problem. Nationwide a lack of resources has hindered progress at a despairing rate. One study by researcher in North Carolina showed patients had to wait an average of more than 3 days before being admitted. Many never received treatment at all.
Getting more beds to house patients seems like it should be an obvious necessity. Yet until now many patients are still turned away, often with disastrous consequences.
- Youth Mental Health Disorders
Of course it should go without saying that catching an illness early is ideal. Being able to diagnose and treat a mental illness in young people should be of paramount importance to protecting the future.
Currently statistics on suicide from National Alliance on Mental Illness stated it is:
- 10thleading cause of death in the U.S.
- 3rdleading cause of death for people aged 10–24
- 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24
More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition. By improving the way young people are assessed for mental health crisis the more likely they will get treatment. With drastic rates of mental health crisis in young people it is incredibly important to have innovative treatment out there. How many young people can survive if they have the intervention they so urgently need?
Changing the State of the Mental Health Crisis
This legislation isn’t just about those who don’t get treated. It is also about those who get the wrong kind of help. Another devastating byproduct of inadequate treatment options is what happens when those who experience mental health crisis wind up in prisons.
Stigma can illustrate psychiatric illnesses so inaccurately. Some people who suffer from a mental health crisis are labeled as violent, but the reality is evidence does not support that claim. People with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can find themselves facing indescribable scrutiny. Providing prevention, treatment and education can help defeat the stigma stitched to mental illness.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is one organization that extolled the newly passed legislation as “a major step forward toward mental health care reform” and one of the biggest steps taken on the issue in decades. NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti in a statement,
“The bill addresses a broad range of issues and provides an important framework for the future,”
Hopefully this legislation will offer new support and resources for substance abuse and addiction treatment as well. A mental health crisis is commonly simultaneous with substance abuse. Self-medicating is one way people with mental illness try to cope without knowing the reality of their illness. Overall we hope this new act will pass the Senate and move on to earn presidential approval in order to save lives. The time to change is right now and we need the resources to match the need.
A holistic approach to addiction treatment will be attentive to mental health issues. Truly effective treatment can only result from comprehensive care and addressing all aspects of the individual’s affliction.
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