A Unified Vision for Transforming Mental Health and Substance Use Care calls for policy, programs and standards that prioritize mental health care and address the social and economic conditions – including racism and discrimination – that disproportionately impact people of color and people whose incomes are below the federal poverty threshold, and result in inadequate and inequitable access to effective, humane treatment.
“The importance of aligning agendas and working together across sectors cannot be understated if we are to make real changes to our mental health and substance use care system. The systemic transformation we are embarking on will take a new kind of leader – prepared to innovate, transform and lead us into the future. CBHL is pleased to support the Unified Vision and stand ready to take the important steps in actualizing it.” – Holly Salazar, CEO, The College for Behavioral Health leadership
A collaboration of mental health and substance use disorder organizations – the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Mental Health America, the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Behavioral Health, One Mind, Peg’s Foundation, the Steinberg Institute, The Kennedy Forum, the Treatment Advocacy Center and Well Being Trust – developed the roadmap as a response to the pandemic, which has greatly exacerbated the fault lines in an already fractured mental health system and heightened mental health issues across our nation – including anxiety, depression, isolation, addiction, domestic abuse, and suicide.
Just as the public health care system was unprepared for a pandemic, an unprecedented mental health crisis afflicting half of all Americans has overwhelmed the mental health care system. Since the onset of the pandemic, prevalence of depression symptoms have jumped three-fold, overdose deaths have increased in 40 states, and the CDC reports that 25 percent of young adults struggle with suicidal ideation.
The strategic plan offers tried-and-tested “pathways for success” across seven critical policy areas identified as:
- Early identification and prevention, especially for families and young people;
- Rapid deployment of emergency crisis response and suicide prevention;
- Leveling inequities in access to care;
- Establishing integrated health and mental health care to ensure “whole-person” well-being;
- Achieving parity in payment by health plans for mental health and substance-use coverage;
- Assuring evidence-based standards of treatments and care; and,
- Engaging a diverse mental health care workforce, peer support and community-based programs.
Included in the vision is a detailed proposal for how the new Administration, Congress, Governors and state and local lawmakers must work in tandem with the business community and the non-profit sector to promote systemic changes in the mental health care system.
Among the seven suggestions are a number of ideas that can be implemented quickly, such as, embracing telehealth, and implementing strategic shifts to early intervention that can help provide relief by bringing telehealth outside of a clinical setting – and into schools, community centers, prisons; fast-tracking new emergency response systems, such as the new “988” National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for immediate access on mobile carriers; and, engaging a diverse mental health care workforce, providing additional support means by expanding access to peer support groups and community based programs.