House Passes Health Reform Bill; Senate Unveils Plan
The U.S. House of Representatives on November 7 passed its health reform plan by a vote of 220 to 215. Mental Health America supported the bill for taking significant steps to eliminate barriers and increase access to mental health and substance use services. (You can view a release and letter of support here.) Thank you contacting your representative and urging they vote to pass the legislation. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday released a final Senate version. Consideration of the legislation could begin as early as this Saturday. We will have an update on the plan soon.
The Tragedy at Fort Hood
The tragedy at Fort Hood is focusing greater attention on the military mental health system and the stresses experienced by troops, their families and caregivers. We have assembled a number of resources to assist families of servicemen and women and veterans. Mental Health America has also partnered with Prescription Audio to make its sound therapy sound therapy available without charge as a download to veterans, active duty servicemen and women, their family members and health care providers. Similar Prescription Audio sound therapy is currently being prescribed within the Department of Veterans Affairs and US Army hospitals to aid in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), insomnia, high stress and compassion fatigue. The resources and a link to the download can be found at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/reunions.
Legislation Introduced to Help Treat Depression and Bipolar Disorders
A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced legislation to establish national centers of excellence for the treatment of depression and bipolar disorders. The centers will create a national network to help diagnose people in need and improve access to evidence-based, quality care. Mental Health America supports the legislation. (A press release on the bill can be viewed here.)
Over 70 House Members Call for Strong, Timely Parity Regulations
In a follow-up to our successful effort in August in the Senate to direct a letter to the Administration calling for strong and timely regulations to the mental health parity law, Mental Health America joined in a similar effort in the House. With your help, over 70 House members signed on the letter, which was sent September 23rd to the three Departments (Labor, Health and Human Services and Treasury) overseeing the development of mental health parity regulations. You can view the letter here, which states many of our concerns regarding features of the regulations. Mental Health America will continue to advocate for regulations that carry out the intent of the law, assure appropriate access and push for quick action by the three departments.
National Action Needed to Respond to Economy’s Toll on Mental Health
Dr. David Shern, president and CEO of Mental Health America, writes on his psychologytoday.com blog about steps needed at the federal level to respond to the economy’s impact on the mental health of Americans. Read the post here. A national survey that Mental Health America joined in conducting found that individuals who are unemployed are four times as likely as those with jobs to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness and or suicidal ideation. Americans who experienced involuntary changes in their employment status, such as pay cuts or reduced hours, also are twice as likely to have these symptoms, even though they are employed full time.
Court Hears Challenge to Life Sentences Without Parole for Juveniles
On November 9, the U.S. Supreme Court took up two cases involving juvenile offenders in Florida who claim their life sentences for crimes less than murder violate the cruel-and-unusual-punishment clauses of the Constitution. There are about 2,500 juveniles (ranging in age from 13 to 17) currently sentenced to life in prison in the United States. No other country in the world currently has adolescents serving this sentence. You can read Mental Health America’s position against the practice here. Mental Health America also filed an amicus brief in the case which can be viewed here.
About the Advocacy Network
Mental Health America’s Advocacy Network is a powerful voice for change that is made up of thousands of individuals nationwide who take an active role in protecting America’s mental health through legislative advocacy. Together, we speak out and make our voice heard on equal access to care, federal funding, treatment and prevention.