Congress Tackles Critical Mental Health Issues
Mental Health Becoming a Priority in Nation's Capitol
Contact: Heather Cobb, (703) 797-2588 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 27, 2006) - Today three separate committees of the House of Representatives meet to discuss issues critical to the mental health of adults and children in the United States: ending inequity in mental health coverage, curbing the criminalization of mental illness and expanding children's access to health coverage.
Today, Mental Health America President and CEO Dr. David Shern will testify before the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee as it considers the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act and Medicare mental health modernization (complete testimony at http://www.equitycampaign.net/).
"Whatever the prism - whether from the perspective of science, medicine, ethics or economics - there is simply no foundation for erecting or maintaining artificial limits to needed mental health care," said Dr. Shern. "It's critical that we tear down barriers that lead countless Americans to forfeit healthy lives and the realization of their full potential. We applaud congressional leaders who are making mental health and the passage of a strong mental health and substance use parity bill this year a real priority."
The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security is also holding a hearing on another long overdue reform: the need to end the criminalization of mental illness. The hearing provides an important platform for congressional efforts to increase funding for engaging the state or local law enforcement, justice and behavioral health system to establish community-based treatment programs, community re-entry services and jail-diversion initiatives. Mental Health America and other advocates are urging Congress to increase funding for the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act to realize the full authorization level of $50 million.
The Subcommittee on Health of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will also examine issues critical to mental health as it considers expanding access to health care for children in preparation for reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
"Without early and effective identification and intervention, childhood mental disorders can lead to school failure, poor employment outcomes, contact with the criminal justice system and even suicide," said Dr. Shern. "We urge the Committee to act quickly to close the gaps in coverage of mental health care that exist in private insurance plans and public programs that families rely on to help their children struggling with mental health conditions."
Also evidencing the broad concern for tackling pressing mental health issues, the full House last Wednesday, March 21, overwhelmingly passed the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 327) that calls for a comprehensive program to foster mental health and reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans.
Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation - everyday and in times of crisis.