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Statement by Paul Gionfriddo, MHA president and CEO, on Secretary Clinton's Mental Health Plan

“Secretary Hillary Clinton today released her mental health policy platform. MHA has eagerly awaited this day, because we know that it reflects months of thoughtful deliberation about her vision for the future of mental health services in America.

“It is a solid, comprehensive plan, consistent with MHA’s century-long advocacy for mental health, including prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated services for those who need them, and recovery as the goal.

“The plan treats mental health as a part of overall health – just as it should be treated. In that respect, it doesn’t just focus on what some have called “serious mental illness,” limiting our policy attention to deep-end, post-crisis services only. Instead, it takes the same approach that MHA does – treating all mental health concerns seriously, and focusing on earlier interventions and integrated services that promote recovery at the lowest expense of dollars, resources, and lives – in other words, it promotes action before Stage 4.

“Much of the plan is in line with MHA’s top federal policy priorities. The plan provides more than $50 million for early identification and services for children with mental health needs; calls for a major investment of Medicaid dollars into community behavioral health clinics; supports the expansion of the peer specialist workforce, through efforts (such as those underway at MHA) that will train peers to work as valued members of clinical care teams and provide for Medicaid reimbursement for peer support services in every state; calls for the diversion of nonviolent offenders with mental illnesses away from jails and prisons and into treatment and services; supports the expansion of housing, employment, and advocacy services for people with mental health conditions; and offers new initiatives that ensure that the provisions of the Mental Health Parity Act will be enforced.

“MHA also strongly supports the training of more mental health professionals and expansion of the mental health workforce; the promotion collaborative care; improvements to mental health services to returning veterans; the promotion of brain research, improvement of training of law enforcement officers; and a commitment to help end suicide in America. MHA believes that this plan will build on the bipartisan foundation for mental health that has been laid in Congress this year.

“While we all may find certain things missing in the plan – most notably how people might get to services in the future and for what beds and services Medicaid will pay in the long run –  we believe the debates about these issues will continue and we welcome the evaluations of them that have been underway.  It should be noted that this plan does not choose one approach or another. 

“But what it does do is more important – it recognizes that without a comprehensive set of integrated services, discussions about payment mechanisms and consumer choice don’t mean much. So its greatest strength may well be in its investments in creating more of those choices.  In fact, this is all a matter of choice, and most importantly the policy choices we make.  Together, we can change the trajectory of mental health policy in America. And this in turn will change the trajectories of lives. 

“There is an emerging bipartisan consensus toward action today. This plan rests solidly within that consensus and adds to it. We applaud Secretary Clinton for offering it, and look forward to the day that mental health is truly seen as an essential part of overall health, and the brain as a most essential part of the body.”

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