The Obama Administration Increases Access to Mental Health Services

Institute of Mental Health 3, Nov 06

Institute of Mental Health 3, Nov 06 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Less than half of the children and adults with a diagnosis of a mental health problem receive the treatment they need. The Obama administration has made it a priority to do everything possible to make it easier to access mental health services. Over the past several years, the administration has taken steps to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental illness, and to ensure that millions of American’s have access to health insurance that covers mental health and substance abuse disorder services at parity with medical and surgical benefits.

Also, the President has proposed an additional $130 million in his FY 2014 Budget for efforts such as helping to ensure teachers and other adults who work with youth can recognize signs of mental illness and connect children and their families to the treatment they need.

The Administration hosted the National Conference on Mental Health to discuss ways to reduce stigma.

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Biden Announces $100 Million to Increase Mental Health Services Access

December 10, Vice President Biden announced that $100 million will soon be available to increase access to mental health services and improve mental health facilities.

“The fact that less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need is unacceptable.  The President and I have made it a priority to do everything we can to make it easier to access mental health services, and today’s announcements by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture build on that commitment.”

  • $50 Million for Mental Health Services at Community Health Centers:  The Department of Health and Human Services will issue a $50 million funding opportunity to help Community Health Centers establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness or addiction.
  • $50 Million to Improve Mental Health Facilities:  Because proximity to mental health services can be a unique challenge in rural America, the Department of Agriculture has a new goal:  finance $50 million for the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas over the next three years.

The Affordable Care Act expands mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits and federal parity protections for approximately 60 million Americans. The law also requires most health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost to consumers. And starting in 2014, insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage or charge individuals more due to pre-existing health conditions, including mental illnesses.

In addition, the President’s FY 2014 Budget proposes a new $130 million initiative to address several barriers that may prevent people from accessing help. The initiative proposes to train teachers to recognize signs of mental illness and refer students to mental health services when needed. It supports the training of an additional 5,000 mental health professionals.  And it would give grants to states to implement innovative strategies to help young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues. The Administration calls on Congress to appropriate funds for these important purposes.

How the Affordable Care Act Changes Mental Health Coverage

from The Fiscal Times: The passage of Affordable Care Act has brought sweeping changes that will make coverage of mental health and drug treatment one of the “10 essential health benefits” that all insurers must offer. Insurers, patient advocates and state regulators are still hammering out specifics, but critics contend it will lead to an even greater shortage of services and that it doesn’t do enough to address issues specific to treating the mentally ill. Many industry experts also aren’t sure what changes in the field of mental health will even be needed as new challenges arise.

According to Ron Honberg, the national director for policy and legal affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

“The reality is that the ACA is not going to solve all of our health care problems, either for physical or mental health. People are still going to struggle to get everything covered that they need to, but the inclusion of mental health care in this law is a huge step forward.”

Read the whole story.

Mental Illness and Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits

It is no secret that the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies two-thirds of initial Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications. It’s not common knowledge that many are denied for “failure to cooperate,” or FTC.

Given that seeking SSDI benefits is stressful, tedious, complex and confusing, it is less surprising to realize the implications for those who have a severe mental illness. Individuals with schizophrenia, severe depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses face a greater likelihood of missed deadlines and being unresponsive to requests. FTC denials are a hazard for people with mental illnesses.

Tai Venuti, Manager of Strategic Alliances at Allsup, attended the NAMI California 2013 Annual Conference last month where mental health consumers, advocates and parents shared how difficult their SSDI journey had been, how they or their loved ones missed deadlines, were overwhelmed by paperwork, had difficulty obtaining medical records or were too anxious to make appointments, and their claims were denied.

“If you’re in denial about your mental illness, how on earth are you going to prove you have one?” asked one parent. When reviewing a claim of mental illness, the SSA advises its employees to include an appropriate third party (a family member, friend, etc.) to participate and assume the claimant needs assistance if he or she fails to provide medical evidence. The feedback Venuti got from the mental health community last week suggested these steps aren’t always followed.

This is one reason, according to Venuti, many people benefit from the help of an SSDI representative like Allsup, which can provide much needed assistance to claimants who aren’t able to handle this process on their own. Allsup is a disability representation company founded by Jim Allsup, a former SSA field rep. Allsup also does what it can to facilitate the SSA’s own requirements—helping Social Security workers gather the information, records and details they need, including using electronically enhanced processes—to make this process as simple as it can be.

For more resources provided by Allsup for those with mental illness, visit Allsup’s Resource Center.