Senate needs to approve Mental Health Reform Act
Our nation’s mental health system is in dire need of repair. More than 68 million Americans have experienced mental illness in the past year, which is more than 20 percent of the total population in the United States. Yet many people with mental illness or substance use conditions and their families are unable to access needed care and are constantly challenged by a fragmented mental health delivery system.
Far too many Americans with mental illness get their care not from physicians’ offices or hospitals, but rather from our nation’s jails and prisons. In most states, the largest mental health facility is a correctional facility.
But there is hope. When the U.S. Senate returns in September, it can pass the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016. The bill will help enforce an existing law mandating that mental health be covered just like physical health and it will help coordinate federal resources currently spread over a number of agencies.
There is strong bipartisan support for mental health reform; similar legislation passed the House in July with only two no votes. But time is running out for this Congress. The Senate must act now to make sure patients with mental illness get the care they need and deserve.
Seth P. Stein, Esq.
New York State Psychiatric Association