On Monday, May 5, Vice President Biden is delivering remarks to the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Meeting in order to highlight the actions the Administration has taken to break down the barriers preventing people from getting help for mental illnesses.
Nearly one in five American adults experience a mental illness in any given year. Less than half received mental health services. And only about half of children with mental problems receive treatment. The top three reasons given for not receiving help are cost, belief they could handle the problem without treatment, and that they did not know where to go for services.
We must do everything we can to increase access to mental health services and expand our understanding of the human brain so that we may develop more effective treatments. Most recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the applications for the new and expanded mental health initiatives first proposed in the President and Vice President’s comprehensive gun violence reduction package. $115 million was secured in the Fiscal Year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill for these initiatives, which will train more mental health professionals to serve in our communities, help educators recognize the early signs of mental health problems and refer young people to appropriate help when needed, and support innovative state-based approaches to making sure young people ages 16 to 25 who are at high risk for mental illness don’t fall through the cracks of our mental health system. All of the applications for these grants are now available at grants.gov.
ADDITIONAL ADMINISTRATION ACTIONS TO INCREASE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Reducing the Barrier of Cost by Expanding Insurance Coverage for Mental Health Services: In February 2013, HHS released a final Affordable Care Act rule requiring coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services as one of ten essential health benefits categories in the individual and small group markets. It also extends parity requirements to these markets, meaning insurance companies must cover mental health and substance use disorder services in a comparable way to medical and surgical benefits. Together, these provisions expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections for an estimated 60 million Americans. Additionally, in November 2013, the Departments of HHS, Labor and the Treasury issued a final rule implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. The regulation includes important consumer protections, including making clear the information that insurance companies must provide to help ensure transparency and compliance with the law. HHS also released a letter to state health officials making clear how Medicaid plans must comply with requirements that mental health care is covered the same as other medical services.
Helping More People Have A Place to Go for Mental Health Services and Know Where to Go: In addition to the $115 million in new HHS funding for Fiscal Year 2014, in December 2013 the Vice President announced $100 million in funding to increase access to mental health services, including $50 million to help in approximately 200 Community Health Centers establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness and substance use disorders and $50 million to finance the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas over the next three years. Community Health Centers can use these new funds, made available through the Affordable Care Act, to hire new behavioral health professionals, add mental health and substance use disorder services, and employ team-based care models. The rural funding, made available through the USDA’s Community Facilities direct loan program, can be used to improve or construct mental health service facilities or put in place innovative tools such as telemedicine to expand access to mental health services at rural schools, community centers, hospitals, and other community-based settings. Earlier in 2013, the Administration also launched mentalhealth.gov, a new website featuring easy-to-understand information about basic signs of mental health problems, how to talk about mental health, and how to find help.
Reducing Negative Attitudes and Perceptions About Mental Illness So People Are Willing to Seek Help: In June 2013, the President and Vice President hosted the White House National Conference on Mental Health, where health professionals, young people, and community leaders discussed how we can all work together to encourage people experiencing mental health problems to reach out for help, and encourage friends and family members to support their loved ones and connect them with help. The White House applauded the dozens of voluntary commitments – made by organizations representing media, educators, health care providers, faith communities, and foundations – to increase understanding and awareness of mental health.
Investing in Research to Find New, More Effective Treatments: In April 2013, the President announced the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, which aims to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain and help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, including behavioral health disorders. Launched with approximately $100 million in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, the BRAIN Initiative aims to accelerate the development and application of new technologies that will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact. In addition, HHS dedicated up to $24.8 million in Fiscal Year 2014 funding to states for the development of evidence-based programs to provide treatment for people with early serious mental illness, including psychosis. The programs are supported through a new 5 percent- set aside in Mental Health Block Grants. HHS also launched the Early Psychosis Prediction and Prevention initiative to accelerate research on detecting risk states for psychotic disorders, preventing the onset of psychosis in high risk individuals, and reducing the duration of untreated psychosis in people who have experienced a first episode of psychosis. Approximately $25 million has been announced for this initiative for Fiscal Year 2014.