Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Let’s Connect for Mental Health

By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

This past summer, the White House Conference on Mental Health launched a National Dialogue in which communities large and small have engaged in dialogues about mental illness and needs in the mental health care system.

NAMI members have participated in many forums, including one held on college campuses and at veterans’ facilities.  NAMIonCampus has produced a produced a special toolkit for use with college students  and we have launched a new national education program, NAMI Ending the Silence,  designed to educate and empower high school students.

A New Initiative

This week, NAMI   introduced a new initiative in partnership with the National Council on Behavioral Health (National Council), called Connect4MentalHealth  that seeks to keep moving the National Dialogue forward to action.

Connect4Mental Health is calling on community leaders to make mental health care a priority. Commitment is needed not just from the mental health community, but also law enforcement, emergency services, public housing, school districts and others. Efforts will focus on four specific strategies:

  • Early intervention.
  • Creative use of technology.
  • Integration of services.
  • Improved continuity of care.

These strategies can help break cycles of hospitalization, homelessness or incarceration. They are community-focused and reflect the need for collaboration. They can help save money in the long run.

Support Exists for Greater Priority

For too long, mental health care has been “the poor step child” of American health care, even though the cost to the country’s economy is an estimated $300 billion a year.  Mental health care receives only six to seven percent of all federal health spending; meanwhile, 40 percent of adults living with mental illness do not receive treatment.  From 2009 to 2012, states slashed approximately $4.35 billion from mental health care.

Awareness of the need for change exists. A recent poll of 1000 persons indicated that:

  • 82 percent see people living with mental illness as being treated differently than others people because of social stigma.
  • 74 percent claim to know someone who lives with mental health condition.
  • 41 percent believe access to mental health treatment is poor or awful.
  • 87 percent recognize the need to prioritize funding for early intervention.
  • 68 percent believe mental health care should be addressed at both the national and local levels.
  • 91 percent agree that that community can do more to help people affected by mental illness.

Despite these figures, one of the most disappointing responses of the past year has been that many states have nonetheless rejected expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would have covered people who have no health insurance.  People living with mental illness are among the largest group of potential beneficiaries from states expansions. We still have much work ahead.

Model Programs Play a Role

 There is no “one size that fits all” in mental health care treatment.  Local circumstances will always influence basic strategies. As part of launching Connect4Mental Health, a summit in Washington, D.C. highlighted four examples:

  • Henderson Behavioral Healthcare in Fort Lauderdale, which developed an evidence-based early intervention program that has helped hundreds of adults live an independent lifestyle in supported housing.
  • Vinfen in Boston, which is using technology to encourage more accurate and frequent reporting on medication adherence and other needs, with estimated savings of $3.8 million to the health care system over three years.
  • Center for Health Services  in San Antonio, which has partnered with police, firefighters and emergency response teams to divert more than 1,000 individuals living with mental illness from hospitals or jails each month.
  • MHA Village in Los Angeles, which provides continuity of care that increased employment 200 percent while lowering hospitalizations, homelessness and incarcerations.

Real-life examples help establish that the vision of new, strengthened mental health care system is not an illusion. It is real and achievable. There is already a foundation to build on—if community leaders are willing to seize the opportunity.

Change cannot be achieved without continuing dialogue. It also will depend ultimately on community action. In order to help individuals and families affected by mental illness, NAMI is committed to moving dialogue and action forward for the long haul.


Anonymous said...

Mental illnesses are brain disorders like any other illnesses caused by any other organ in the body. Why is this so hard to understand?

Anonymous said...

What can we do? Don't sit back and wait for someone else to do the work. If we are silent that mentality continues. Family members can make a big different and all to often they do nothing. Each one can in their own way help by being at a NAMI family support group. Just show up willing to LISTEN and share your helpful solutions. Also, educating self and others is vital or networking in their local area always creates positive change. Isolating is not helpful.

Luis Quiroz Ravines said...

The initiative called Connect4Mental Health, will only be successful if it manages to engage diverse population cores and the main leaders of the nation. Mental care is a priority not only for adults and the elderly, should be for the whole population. The intensive use of new technologies for the early diagnosis and proper coordination of all services will be essential to promote and improve the mental health and health care

eliana375 said...

'm a high school student who wants to make a difference. I have no connection to any mental health organizations, as luckily I do not have such issues and neither does anyone I know, it's just an issue I feel strongly about. What can I do to help?

Judy Beckman said...

I agree with you, Anonymous. All of us must do what we can. I have family members who suffered from mental illness. I am a strong advocate for those who have mental illness and their loved ones.

I offer an e-mail mental illness spiritual support group. For those who are interested in this viewpoint, please contact me at 567 225-6702 and leave your e-mail address and a phone no. in case it's necessary for clarification.

Judy Beckman

Unknown said...

best ideas i have seen is rep. tim murphy (R Pa) house resolution rolled out this last thursday 11 dec.