The mental health crisis affects a devastating number of individuals and their families across the country. In fact, roughly 43.8 million Americans experience mental illness each year, and nearly 10 million suffer from a serious condition, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.
With only 41 percent of adults with a mental health condition receiving care in the last year, our broken health care system has clearly failed to help those who need it most. The crisis is complex and affects people of different ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and economic status. While an issue like this cannot be solved through one piece of legislation, recently, the House of Representatives took a step to improve our mental health care system by passing the 21st Century Cures Act. The 21st Century Cures Act focuses mainly on investing in the development of life-saving cures, but also includes the most significant reforms to the mental health care system in more than a decade – reforms that will provide better services and bring accountability to ensure patients receive the care they need.
Like much of health care, treatment for mental health care can be costly and patients rely on insurance plans to cover it. However, there are instances where mental health conditions are not covered in the same way as other physical ailments, despite existing mental health parity laws requiring these conditions be treated equally. This legislation requires new guidance to ensure plans are compliant with mental health parity laws.
We also face a shortage of qualified service providers to treat individuals struggling with mental health conditions, leaving much of the burden on families to find the right care for their loved ones. As part of this bill, grant programs will be reauthorized to recruit and train mental health care providers, strengthening our nation’s mental health care system now and in the future.
This legislation also creates an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse to promote the coordination of mental health programs across federal agencies, ensuring the most effective, evidence-based programs are being used and supported. This includes coordinating with the Department of Veterans Affairs on the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline Program to give veterans who call access to a specialized hotline for assistance. Additionally, this bill encourages increased communication between providers, families and patients to give patients the best possible treatments.
As Congress continues to consider reforms to the health care system to create a more patient-centered approach that lowers costs and increases access, quality care for mental health conditions will continue to be one of my top priorities.
It is an honor to serve you, and I look forward to hearing from you on this and other issues facing the federal government. Please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-2015, Hilliard office at (614) 771-4968, Lancaster office at (740) 654-2654, or Wilmington office at (937) 283-7049 with any questions or concerns.
Steve Stivers is a member of Congress from Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.