Another Voice: Federal legislation would help those who are suffering the most from mental illness - The Buffalo News

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Another Voice: Federal legislation would help those who are suffering the most from mental illness

By Marcy Rose

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 3717), introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., requires the federal government to start focusing on the most seriously ill, rather than those who are higher-functioning. While mental disorders are common in the United States, the burden of disability is concentrated mostly in those with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Even when therapies such as cognitive enhancement therapy exist, few people can access them because of the shortage of trained personnel and a system that cannot keep pace with need.

Families are desperate to find help for loved ones whose lives have so heinously been affected by a cruel disorder that makes them unable to continue college, hold jobs or have families of their own. Closing of hospital beds makes it impossible for patients to become stabilized long enough on medications to be discharged and remain in care as outpatients. Often they refuse to fill the prescriptions they are given in the hospital.

Outpatient appointments are not kept and the cycle keeps repeating. In the past, longer hospital stays or transfer to a state psychiatric facility enabled patients to have time to adjust to medication and to receive counseling and programs that promote recovery, then be discharged. Today, with severe limits being imposed by state regulations and requirements, those who need additional time to recover are not getting it.

New York State’s Kendra’s Law has helped seriously ill people achieve a quality of life that would be impossible for them otherwise. HR 3717 provides additional improvements in this law, which is a successful, evidenced-based, program that saves money and lives. Many who have been helped laud Kendra’s Law as the reason they are successful in recovery.

The people we read about every few weeks are in need of treatment. Their families need to be heard when they try to help them. The argument that they need outpatient care is a good one, but first they need an appropriate amount of time to recover from relapse when they are resisting treatment, so they can think rationally. Please support HR 3717 so they will get it.

Marcy Rose is president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Buffalo & Erie County.

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