Advocacy Alert

Mental health coverage
is at risk

Congress is bringing back the American Health Care Act, which would leave millions of Americans without mental health coverage and strip Medicaid of billions of dollars in funding. Please remember that Medicaid in California is Medi-Cal. And the bill has gotten worse.

The recently introduced “MacArthur Amendment” would let states get waivers allowing health insurance plans to not cover mental health and substance use treatment and charge people with mental illness more.

It’s outrageous to even suggest that mental health coverage is optional and to charge people more because they have a mental health condition.

Medicaid coverage is also under threat. It covers important mental health services that help people with mental illness get better and stay better.

Efforts are being made to generate enough votes which we need stop. We have fought for mental health parity for a long time and this act would reverse years of effort and mean many would not have mental health coverage. Your mental health coverage is at risk.

Tell Congress to #KeepWhatWorks and REJECT the American Health Care Act.

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Thank you for your advocacy efforts.

Hospitals Should Be Places For Healing, Not Harm

From NAMI California

By Jessica Cruz
NAMI California Executive Director

Training Illustration Dollarphotoclub_97425553The treatment of mental illness in hospitals remains a severe crisis in this country – costing millions of dollars each year as well as countless lives lost or unjustly criminalized.

The recent New York Times report, “When the Hospital Fires the Bullet,” and corresponding This American Life segment, “My Damn Mind,” dramatically portray the challenges faced by individuals and family members seeking emergency psychiatric care – and the tragedies that can follow when staff are not prepared to care for someone in crisis.

Alan Peon, like many individuals experiencing a psychiatric crisis, sought help at a local emergency room. He and his family rightfully expected trained mental health professionals to evaluate and treat his psychiatric emergency condition with compassionate, quality, culturally appropriate and timely care in a safe, nonthreatening environment – exactly what we expect when we seek treatment for any medical condition. Instead, he was shot in the chest and nearly died.

Click this link to read the full article

Some of the “Other” Common Symptoms in Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is most easily recognized by the symptoms that define it, such as visual and auditory hallucinations (e.g., “seeing things” and “hearing voices”) and delusions, including paranoia. But other symptoms are also extremely common.

Apathy, for instance, is often observed. If a person is experiencing auditory or visual delusions and paranoia – “psychosis” – they they are less likely to engage in day to day activities because the voices and suspicions are controlling the majority of their life. A Person living with schizophrenia can still experience depression even when they are not having other symptoms, the person will show signs of apathy, which can be attributed to the depression. Excessive doses of antipsychotics can also sometimes contribute to apathy.

Negative Symptoms Associated with Schizophrenia

Between 40% and 50% of people living with schizophrenia who have been treated and are recovering

will show evidence of negative symptoms. Negative symptoms include:

• Emotional flatness or lack of expressiveness.
• Inability to start and follow through with activities.
• Lack of pleasure or interest in life.

One distinction of some people living with schizophrenia is they do not expect enjoyable activities to give them pleasure, which likely causes them to not engage in pleasure-seeking behaviors.

Related articles

Successful Meeting about Hearing Voices

NAMI South Bay thanks its guests and members for a productive discussion at last night’s meeting. The group discussed the Hearing Voices support group at Harbor UCLA, led by Brad Stevens, LCSW, Psychiatric Social Worker. Several publications were mentioned and two are shown here with links for those members that were interested in following up:

Living with Voices–50 Stories of Recovery

 

Hearing Voices a Common Human Experience

 

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Four Mental Illness Recovery Patterns Identified in Study

A two-year study of patients with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or affective psychosis reveals four recovery trajectories and the factors that affect those outcomes. Generally speaking, those four trajectories are:

  • Stable with a high level of recovery
  • Stable with a lower level of recovery
  • Fluctuating high-level recovery
  • Fluctuating low-level recovery

Of the factors that affect recovery, having access to good-quality mental health care—defined as including satisfying relationships with clinicians, responsiveness to needs, satisfaction with psychiatric medications, receipt of services at needed levels, support in managing deficits in resources and strains, and care for general medical conditions—may facilitate or improve recovery trajectories.

These results are promising, because all too often, serious mental illness is seen as incurable, permanent, and progressively deteriorating. The reality is that as many as 60% to 70% of patients can achieve a measurable level of recovery. Carla Green Ph.D., M.P.H., and colleagues of the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Northwest, in Portland, Ore., reported the findings in their report, “Recovery From Serious Mental Illness: Trajectories, Characteristics, and the Role of Mental Health Care” in the December Psychiatric Services.

“Few demographic or diagnostic factors differentiated clusters at baseline. Consistent predictors of trajectories included psychiatric symptoms, physical health, resources and strains, and use of psychiatric medications.” 

The most consistent predictors of recovery were psychiatric symptoms and changes in those symptoms. Those in turn are dependent on good-quality care, which includes satisfaction with their clinicians and with the medications they are taking. “Providing such care has the potential to change recovery trajectories over time.”

Community Services Vital to Mental Illness Recovery

From Psychiatric News Alert: Successful recovery from serious mental illness in the community requires more than just clinical care—it requires a range of human and social support systems. That’s what Estelle Richman said this week during a keynote address to kick-off this year’s APA Institute of Psychiatric Services (IPS) in Philadelphia.

Richman has had a long history of public service, working most recently as senior advisor to the secretary of Housing and Urban Development for health and human service issues. From 2003 to 2009, she was secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Prior to that, she had held the positions of director of social services, commissioner of public health, and deputy commissioner for mental health, mental retardation, and substance abuse services for the city of Philadelphia.

Richman drew on her extensive experience in public service and especially her experience helping to close the old Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry (it was officially closed in 1990) and in the development of a community-based mental health system to replace it.

At the IPS, she expressed optimism about the movement toward integrated care and the expansion of care, including the coverage of mental health and substance abuse treatment under the Affordable Care Act, but said the vision of a truly successful mental health system has not yet been achieved. And she emphasized the need for a range of social and supportive services in the community for people with mental illness.

“For people with mental illness to be successful in the community, community resources need to be expanded. These resources include housing—moving from institution to group homes to independent living with supports is critical—as well as case management and supported employment. Work and employment are central to the growth of the individual people want meaningful activities of their choice.”

Look to Psychiatric News for comprehensive coverage of this year’s IPS.

In the South Bay, the search for resources like those discussed by Richman can begin at 211 LA County by dialing at no charge 2-1-1.