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5 Part Plan to Change Mental Health in America

Author:Justin Mckibben

In the 50 years since the implementation of the Community Mental Health Act, researchers and experts have continued to look for the answers to some of the most complex and intriguing questions concerning the mind, and the issues and rarities that develop in mental health. Since then experts have made great strides in understanding how to improve the mental health of not just one or two selection few, but the entire nation, specifically for those of us with serious mental illnesses.

Who is Here to Help

Pamela S. Hyde is no Dr. Jeckyl, and as the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, she has recently released a 5 point plan to improve the nation’s mental health in 2015, with a few detailed descriptions of how to go about enacting these measures for the good of the country.

Mrs. Hyde was not along on this venture, she was joined by Paolo Del Vecchio, the director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services, who helped her to highlight exactly how much scientific research in the past 50 years has evolved since the implementation of the Community Mental Health Act. Despite the need for change and the plan, the SAMHSA management team has also expressed a pretty typical frustration that is not new to the field, but is both simple and complicated- the vast lack of funding and resources.

The Money for Mental Illness

Despite all the ground that has been covered in understanding mental illness and developing strategies to face the issue head-on, the United States stops short of committing to an investment of financial resources. But to turn these scientific advances into viable practices that actually help the people who desperately need the help, there has to be some funding behind these advances.

And there is no shortage of people who need the treatment. In America it is as real as 1 out of every 5 people experiencing a mental illness each year. So that put the number of citizens who could benefit from these innovations in the millions! The authors of the 5 point plan emphasize the need for resources in their publication stating,

“As a nation we continue to lack the economic and political will to put these solutions into place, despite the fact that they would greatly reduce the economic burden of mental illness; increase productivity, achievement, and independence; and improve the lives of millions of Americans and their families.”

The report with the 5 points states that this plan of action would immediately and greatly improve the existing overburdened mental health system in America while helping to ensure delivery of effective, high quality, coordinated, and evidence-based care for mental illnesses.

The 5 Points

The five-point plan includes the following recommendations:

  1. Increase Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services

Despite the ongoing knowledge that 1 in 5 Americans experience a mental illness each year, and that many Americans with serious mental illness die years earlier than other Americans from treatable medical conditions, our nation is often reluctant to make the investments necessary to provide the proper care, which includes:

  • Prevention– that includes reducing the tragedy of suicide
  • Integrated treatment and early intervention
  • Recovery services – such as supported employment, supportive housing, and peer-operated services
  1. Expand the Mental Health Workforce

A trauma-informed, recovery-oriented and culturally competent workforce in numbers and locations adequate to meet the need is essential for increased service delivery capacity and system improvement.

Making investments in the training and education of the mental health workforce should include evidence-based and effective clinical and psychosocial innovations that incorporate:

  • Medications
  • Counseling
  • Crisis prevention
  • Intervention strategies
  • Engagement techniques
  • Community support services
  • Peer and family providers
  1. Widen the Use of Health Information Technology

Information technologies must be used to improve the reach of services, address gaps in care availability and accessibility, and engage new populations with new therapeutic options.

It is possible to make this change by expanding the outreach and engagement of diverse populations with services using various approaches such as:

  • Electronic health records
  • Telepsychiatry- video conferencing that can provide psychiatric services to patients living in remote locations
  • Self-care applications
  • On-line psychotherapies
  1. Educate the Public

The stigma of mental health and substance abuse issues must be addressed through education. Negative attitudes, beliefs, and behavior about mental illness and their families continues to be one of the greatest barriers to improving mental health care and helping those in need.

America should invest in multiple, evidence-based public education and awareness strategies. Such as campaigns, coordinated events and engagement activities to reduce stigma.

  1. Invest In Research

These experts claim we are only just beginning to understand how the brain functions, and how our genes and the environment impact our emotional well-being. Our ability to identify and practice early intervention to prevent long term disability or death from these conditions could be greatly improved with more research.

We need to understand more about implementing what we do understand and the treatment we already have developed more quickly with a much wider reach, and in order to help more people.

The moral of the story is that this 5 point plan from SAMHSA could easily be adopted if the public and private sectors are willing to make the investment. One of the greatest hurdles in this field of research and treatment is the proper financial support for seeking out the information. With the right resources a plan of action like this could save countless lives, and improve on the future of mental health in America even beyond 2015.

With mental health facing the stigma and uncertainty that it does, mental health research and treatment deserves all the help it can get. Substance abuse and mental health are often very closely connected, so when we look toward the future, we hope the actions are taken to make a brighter possibility for both. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135  

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