Mental illness is not a partisan issue—it is an issue that affects all of America. On Monday, August 29th, Secretary Clinton released her agenda for supporting Americans who live with mental health conditions. Mr. Trump discusses mental health on his website under Healthcare Reform, Veterans Administration Reform and under Second Amendment Rights.
Every day, NAMI’s work is touched by the joy of recovery and the heartbreak of needless tragedies. Because of this, we are heartened and energized that Secretary Clinton has outlined a thoughtful plan for improving mental health care and promoting recovery.
On a call this week with mental health organizations, Secretary Clinton said, “it might seem unusual for a presidential candidate to be taking on this issue.” But, she said, “This is what I’ve been hearing about…Mental health is on the minds of families in every corner of our country…”
This is the heart of NAMI’s power—talking to candidates across the country and letting them know about the importance of mental health. NAMI encourages voters to ask questions of all candidates.
The depth and breadth of Clinton’s plan echoes the public’s growing awareness and concern about mental health in our country and should set a new standard for public discourse. In developing her plan, Secretary Clinton’s staff reached out to a wide range of stakeholders, including NAMI, about leading mental health issues and solutions. NAMI answers all inquiries from candidates seeking to learn more about our priorities and encourages all candidates to develop comprehensive mental health proposals. If Mr. Trump issues one, we will send a detailed memo.
Overview of Secretary Clinton’s Mental Health Plan
NAMI applauds Secretary Clinton for focusing on a wide range of important issues, including these core NAMI priorities:
- Promoting early diagnosis and treatment;
- Enforcing mental health parity;
- Integrating health and mental health care; and
- Prioritizing crisis intervention training and treatment, not jails.
Promoting early diagnosis and treatment
NAMI is pleased to see that the Clinton plan emphasizes early diagnosis and treatment. Half of all chronic mental illness occurs by age 14; 75% by age 24. Treating people earlier leads to better outcomes. That’s why NAMI successfully pushed to increase funding in the federal Mental Health Block Grant for early intervention, including First Episode Psychosis (FEP) programs. The Clinton plan proposes to make this funding a stand-alone program, which will bolster early intervention.
Many young adults first experience signs of psychosis—and symptoms of other mental health conditions—while in college. To encourage students and families to talk about mental health and reach out for help, NAMI released a new guide today, Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health. Importantly, the Clinton plan proposes to strengthen support for college mental health services.
Mental Health Parity
A NAMI signature advocacy goal is parity, or fair insurance coverage of mental health conditions. Despite the passage of the 2008 federal parity law, people across the country are paying for plans that promise access to mental health care but don’t deliver. Stronger enforcement of the law—and simple ways to file complaints—are imperative. The Clinton plan highlights NAMI’s report, A Long Road Ahead, and reinforces our call for greater enforcement of the federal parity law.
Integrating health and mental health care
NAMI recognizes that what is paid for drives what is delivered. When health plans don’t pay for integrated care, it’s difficult to get it. That’s why it’s important that the Clinton agenda proposes to reform financing so that important innovations, like integrated health and mental health and tele-mental health, are reimbursed.
Prioritizing crisis intervention training and treatment, not jails
NAMI also knows that people with mental health conditions need treatment, not jail. Today, one in five police shootings involves a person with mental illness and jails and prisons have replaced hospitals as places where people with mental illness are institutionalized. The Clinton plan focuses on treatment, not punishment, and investments in effective programs like mental health courts and veterans’ treatment courts.
The plan also proposes resources to equip law enforcement officers with programs like Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT),a program championed by NAMI that promotes safe de-escalation of people in crisis and collaboration with community mental health services and supports.
The Clinton plan creates a new bar for candidates for the Oval Office. But Congress also plays a key role in reforming mental health care. In fact, the House has already made crucial strides by passing bipartisan mental health reform earlier this year. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously passed its own mental health reform bill, S. 2680. Yet the full Senate has failed to act. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are waiting for care.
Voters should let their Senators know they expect action. Join our national call-in day on Friday, Sept. 2nd.
Angela Kimball, National Director
Advocacy & Public PolicyNAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness
3803 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203