Nonprofessionals tapped to join mental health fight, Olympians now covered under ACA

Many different types of treatment options are required to effectively treat mental health disorders. Traditional options, such as medication, are always needed and still developing. But due to the strain on medical professionals to meet the needs of this community, New York City is getting creative and tapping into workers at social service organization as an additional resource and training them to conduct initial mental health screenings. In a bit of unusual news, the athletes representing the United States in the Olympics are now covered by adequate health insurance, according to the government.

Outreach center trains employees in mental health screening

New York City’s youth outreach program, The Door, is training its workers to screen for mental health problems. The Door is not only a counseling center, and the workers are not doctors or therapists, but the program hopes that these efforts will help provide much-needed mental health services in a time where resources in the field are stretched thin. At The Door, every worker learns about trauma, development, and ways to help.

New York City is taking note and widely implementing similar policies at other establishments. The training will come at a cost: the city plans to spend $30 million to train staffers at social service organizations. This will allow workers to screen for psychological issues and provide information about treatment options. The city will use this program as an opportunity to study the efficacy of training nonprofessionals to meet some of these needs.

Many people with behavioral health problems fail to seek treatment for a variety of reasons, including cost, stigma, and the plain fact that mental health professionals are already overrun with patients. Both the White House and the World Health Organization support training nonprofessionals to be a supportive, listening ear. Yet others warn that support cannot replace treatment from licensed professionals. They are concerned that non-professionals may attempt to provide a diagnosis or see unusual behaviors as serious illnesses. While cautious about the programs, some mental health advocates do find this type of community support a helpful stepping stone in linking potential patients to medical professionals.

New schizophrenia and bipolar drug to hit the market

The FDA has approved Vraylar® (cariprazine), a promising new drug for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults only. The drug comes in capsule form and is manufactured by Forest Laboratories, LLC. According to the FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products, a wide array of treatment options for these debilitating diseases is important to allow for treatment plans to be tailored to each individual. An executive from Forest Laboratories’ parent company, Allergan, believes that the drug is an important new treatment option.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder drugs, including Vraylar, are not approved to be used in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis. All drugs in this category have a boxed warning alerting professionals of increased with of death when the drug is used for these patients. Trial results indicated that the most common side effects for both patient subsets included extramyramidal symptoms, which include involuntary movements, slurred speech, and tremors. Those taking the drug for the treatment of bipolar disorder also reported feeling the urge to move, restlessness, drowsiness, and vomiting.

Olympians’ coverage now conforms to Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) had created a special health insurance policy for athletes and their dependents, but it was designed prior to the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although the athletes may have thought that they were covered and therefore met the act’s individual mandate, they actually could have been subject to penalties for being uninsured. Like many who were under non-compliant policies, the athletes were exempt from penalties until 2014, and then they were on their own.

CMS has confirmed that the USOC’s changes to the plan covering the athletes and their dependents finally conform to the ACA’s requirements. CMS did not specify what deficiencies in the previous plan caused it not to conform with the law. The plan covers about 1075 people in all.