Let the Voice of Recovery Be Heard: The New President and Congress Have the Responsibility to Adopt Mental Health Policy Reforms

Article excerpt

The mental health system in the United States is in crisis. The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, the Institute of Medicine, and the U.S. Surgeon General all have reported on a fragmented mental health delivery system, fraught with barriers that impede care for people with mental illness. The availability and quality of services vary radically between states. For example, the public health system in New York spends an average of $206 per person for mental health services, while Florida spends only $37 per person.

For the dedicated individuals rendering mental health services, compensation is startlingly insufficient. Starting salaries for a college undergraduate entering the field is often as low as $24,000 a year--barely enough to pay for rent, reliable transportation, and groceries, let alone meet a student loan's repayment obligations.

People can and do recover from mental illness to live successful, satisfying, and productive lives in their communities. Recovery rates for mental illnesses are comparable to, and even surpass, the treatment success rates for many physical health conditions. For example, up to 85% of people with depression who are treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy experience substantially reduced symptoms, enhanced quality of life, and increased productivity. Even individuals with the most serious of psychiatric disabilities are able to recover. Multiple international and domestic studies have concluded that approximately one-half to two-thirds of people with schizophrenia are able to significantly improve their self-care, social relationships, and employment, or even recover completely with no signs or symptoms of the disease.

As Americans prepare to elect their new President and Congress, the leaders who will govern this great nation into the next decade, it is time to have our voices heard. Now is the time to adopt mental health policy reform so that tens of thousands of individuals can enjoy the full benefits of citizenship and reclaim a successful and satisfying life in the community.

Now is the time to pass and have signed into law a parity bill, so that equitable and adequate mental health coverage in all public and private healthcare plans is ensured. It must mandate that individuals receiving services have choices regarding their mental healthcare options and that services are collaborative, person-directed, individualized, and evidence-based. …