Money and mental health: experts, lawmakers say lack of funding is limiting access

Experts say a lack of funding and resources could keep Americans from getting the mental health care they need.

“Let’s talk about resources, and then we can talk about the mental health crisis,” Susan Gurley, executive director of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, said at the morning conference. Wednesday: “It’s All About the Mind: The Many Faces of Mental Illness” .

The event was moderated by The Hill Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack and sponsored by pharmaceutical company Otsuka.

The conversation comes amid the country’s ongoing mental health crisis.

According to research from 2021, 2 in 5 American adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 5% of adults in the US have also reported signs of schizophrenia, generalized anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ).

Lawmakers, mental health experts and advocates came together for Wednesday’s event to discuss how to break down stigmas related to mental health and how to build a system Comprehensive healthcare that supports individuals affected by mental illness, among other topics.

Lawmakers seem to agree that a lack of resources makes it more difficult for people who need help to get it and that greater investments in mental health are needed.

“For every dollar invested in mental health treatment, we get a $12 return,” said Rep. David Trone (D-Md.). “So we don’t invest enough in our most precious resource, which is our children.”

“That’s why we’re all here, the next generation,” he added.

Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) argued for more funding for programs like education and prison reform to ensure that Americans can get to the root of the problem.

“We have to get more money,” McClain said, adding “whether you look at the prison system or you look at the drug treatment system. If you peel that onion, it will restore mental health.”

The two lawmakers, who co-chair the House’s bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders task force, said mental health is an issue that most members of Congress can relate to. Agree.

Through their work on the task force, 26 mental health bills were signed into law in the past year. The Senate has also drawn on sports information from their work, they said, referring to Tuesday’s launch of the bipartisan Mental Health Caucus.

Wednesday’s panelists explained that mental health affects people on both sides of the aisle.

“Mental Health doesn’t look like the Republican Party, it doesn’t look like the Democratic Party, it doesn’t look independent,” Daniel Gillison, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said Wednesday. it’s like all of us.”

Trone and McClain said rural communities in both of their counties have seen improvements in resources since before the COVID-19 pandemic — highlighting a gap in mental health resources.

“I have a lot of rural communities in my district and we’ve done a lot of telehealth,” McClain said. “Mental health is a big positive because before you had to drive two hours if you could afford it, but now you can get on the internet and you can have a zoom meeting about mental health.”

“I understand that it’s not perfect and it’s not as good as sitting down and talking in person, but it’s a lot better,” she added, noting that telehealth isn’t just influential in changing people’s minds , “but also receive [to] people in rural communities like I represent.”

Trone agrees, calling telemental health a “game changer,” especially in rural areas where the leading problem is addiction.

Other panelists agreed that America’s healthcare system needs an upgrade to address the mental health struggles Americans face every day.

“The best of the best was given to me, and it was woefully inadequate,” said Gabe Howard, an author and mental health advocate. “You can just imagine rural areas, no health insurance, no protective factor.”

Now 46 years old, Howard was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 26.

For the first 26 years of his life, those around him – including his parents – thought he had behavioral problems and never thought he was mentally ill. Howard said he often had suicidal thoughts and even accepted it as a normal thing.

He was not diagnosed with the disorder until he was treated at a psychiatric hospital.

“It involves a major restructuring,” Howard said.

Gurley said another factor preventing Americans from receiving appropriate care is the shortage of mental health care workers.

She encouraged lawmakers to address the shortage as they create mental health policy. While breaking down the stigma around mental health is important, unless there is improvement, the conversation can be “pointless,” concludes Gurley.

If people eventually accept that they need help and seek out a therapist but there isn’t one there, she added, it could lead to even worse mental health conditions for that individual.

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