Stigma Remains Regarding Mental Health Illnesses, Services Available Under PPACA

The National Conference on Mental Health, held at the White House in June, brought together health care experts, psychologists, clergy, advocates and administration officials to discuss what is needed to improve the mental health of Americans. Greater understanding and awareness are needed regarding mental health issues like depression, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, which affect 45 million Americans and the Obama administration is working to get the word out about this issue and the resources available.

The Facts

Recent tragedies such as the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, have raised cries for new mental health diagnosis and treatment in this country, but the risk of violence is more likely to be brought against those with mental illnesses than caused by those with mental illnesses. As President Obama said during the conference, “the overwhelming majority of people who suffer from mental illnesses are not violent.”

But many people are affected. The figures show that one in five people, including children, suffer from a mental health disorder. Despite these high numbers, a majority of people (as many as 60 percent) do not receive treatment. Obama cited embarrassment and being “afraid of being ostracized” as reasons for not seeking treatment. Only about half of children with mental illnesses receive treatment. President Obama likened the need for mental health treatment to treatment for a broken arm, flu, or cancers. The need for a national discussion of mental health is needed to reverse the stigma that surrounds treatment.

PPACA Provisions

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148) contains several provisions that provide greater access to coverage for those with mental illness and addiction needs. Among the PPACA-required changes are:

  • Increased coverage for treatment of mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative, habilitative, and prevention and wellness services;
  • Grants for community prevention activities and school-based health services that offer mental health and addiction services;
  • Incentives to coordinate care and to create health homes for individuals with chronic conditions (including mental health disorders);
  • Enhanced community-based service options for individuals with these conditions–Medicaid changes expand coverage for those needing long-term care and the CLASS Act helps those needing home- and community-based services; and
  • Focus on providing services in an effective and modern mental health and substance abuse system through workforce initiatives like education and training grants, loan repayment programs and primary care residency training.

Veterans

In another effort to improve access to mental health treatment, back in May, improved services for veterans, service members and their families were announced by the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Defense, and the HHS. Announced were (1) the increase in the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line so they can readily reach help; (2) new pilot projects involving community-based mental health providers; (3) more services available through the VA through the hiring of 1,400 mental health providers and over 248 new peer specialists; and (4) a national suicide prevention campaign to connect those needing services to providers. As President Obama noted at the conference, 22 veterans per day commit suicide.

New Website

The government also launched a new website on June 3, 2013, mentalhealth.gov, the provides resources, treatment options, and success stories regarding mental health issues facing many Americans.