Mental Health America: Advocacy in Action
October 2010 – Election Edition
Congress Adjourns, Lame Duck Session Set for Nov. 15
The House and Senate adjourned last week as members returned to their
states and districts to campaign for re-election. Before leaving
Washington, Congress passed a bill to fund the federal government at
current levels through December 3. Lawmakers will return on November
15 for a lame duck session, which may address as many as 20 pieces of
Where Do the Candidates Stand on Mental Health?
With the campaign season in full swing, this is an important time to
find out where the candidates stand on critical issues affecting
mental health. The new parity law and the enactment health care
reform recognize how integral mental health is to overall health. But
continued steps are needed to ensure their implementation and
effectiveness. Budget shortfalls in the states are causing cuts in
mental health services at the same time that demand for these
supports are increasing. Every day, we read the tragic news about
suicide rates in the military. Stigma and lack of effective services
continue to prevent servicemen and women and veterans from receiving
the help they need.
Use the questions we have provided below at town hall meetings, for
call-in radio shows and other candidate appearances.
QUESTIONS FOR THE CANDIDATES
Our state is facing incredible budget pressures due to the downturn
in the economy. What will you do to protect services for
individuals with mental illnesses?
The key federal health agency dedicated to behavioral health issues,
SAMHSA, funds critical services, such as the mental health and
substance use block grants, supports, prevention and promotion
efforts. How can these resources be used more effectively in
our state? What will you do to protect these essential
Mental health is integral to overall health and wellness. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have pointed to the
influence of mental health conditions on the onset, progression, and
outcome of other illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and
cancer. How will you implement policies that overcome the barriers to
fully integrating mental and general health care?
Untreated mental illness costs our economy more than $100 billion
annually. More than 34,000 American lives are lost to suicide each
year-more deaths than are attributed to traffic fatalities.
People with serious mental illnesses are dying, on average, 25 years
earlier than other Americans, from a range of manageable health
problems like diabetes. At least two-thirds of youth in juvenile
detention facilities have a mental health condition. What would you
do to address these unacceptable realities?
The Affordable Care Act will increase access for 32 million
individuals, many of whom have mental health conditions, and prohibit
harmful insurance company practices like discriminating based on
pre-existing conditions and placing yearly and lifetime limits on
treatment. In what ways will you work to implement health
reform to increase access to insurance coverage and improve quality?
The health reform bill recognizes the importance of community-based
prevention and wellness services. Many of the most effective
behavioral health prevention programs are community based, including
working with schools to engage them in practices that strengthen
social and emotional development while fostering a positive learning
environment and mental health literacy. What would you do promote
prevention and wellness programs-in schools and the community?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a real illness and is
especially prevalent among our soldiers returning from Iraq and
Afghanistan. But it has been estimated that only about a quarter of
veterans currently receive VA services. What would you do to help
returning service members receive mental health services?
Last year, more service members died by suicide than in combat. And
veterans make up about 20 percent of the more than 34,000 suicides
each year. Yet, a recent report found that suicide prevention efforts
aren’t effective because of mistrust among soldier of military
mental health services. What steps have you taken-or will
you take-to change that?
The federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which took
effect in January of this year, bans employers and insurers from
imposing stricter limits on coverage for mental health and substance
use conditions than those set for other health problems. What would
you say to a business that says it has to drop mental health from its
policy because equalizing coverage is too costly?
There are nearly twice as many suicides (34,000) as there are
homicides (18,000) in the US. What would you do to address this public
health crisis? Would you support community and schools
partnering to address this issue?
© 2008 Mental Health America
formerly known as the National Mental Health Association (NMHA)