Moving Our Agenda Forward: Coalition Unites 110 Mental Health and Substance Use Care Groups to Support Health Reform Principles

Article excerpt

On June 9, the major associations representing the mental health and substance use fields assembled in a historic gathering to affirm that they will speak with one voice in implementing national health reform. Those gathered unanimously agreed to combine the efforts of the Whole Health Campaign and the Coalition for Whole Health into a single entity--represnting 110 organizations--with the latter name, all in support of implementing the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

This action is remarkable, given a past in which the mental health and substance use care and prevention fields have often been at odds over issues ranging from resource allocation to clinical control. Points of fissure have also formed around differences including public vs. private, treatment vs. prevention, state vs. county/local, managed care vs. provider, and more. Both the Campaign and the Coalition have worked to bridge these differences so that the fields can speak with a united voice.

Effective consensus was reached more than two years ago around three principles developed by the Whole Health Campaign: good health insurance coverage for persons with mental health and substance use conditions; good, integrated care that spans mental health, substance use, and primary care; and good prevention services for mental health and substance use conditions. On these principles, the Campaign produced eight policy papers, and the Coalition advocated for the major mental health and substance use provisions in the new reform legislation.

Several years of vital work lie ahead. This work will involve close collaboration with the Secretary of HHS; participation on boards, commissions, and taskforces; review of draft regulations; and communication with the field so its views are reflected accurately and it is informed of current developments.

The reform legislation represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the mental health and substance use fields fully equal participants in healthcare, where we can and must succeed.

What are the reform-related issues that will be addressed?

Insurance reform. More than 32 million adult Americans will receive health insurance coverage through these provisions. This will occur through expansion of the Medicaid program for all who are at 133 percent of the Federal poverty level or less and the creation of State Health Insurance Exchanges. Both of these provisions will go into effect in 2014. About 10.5 million of these newly insured persons will have a mental health or substance use condition. …