Congress Should Provide for Students’ Mental Health

Jessica Eagle, M.A.Ed., N.C.C.
Legislative Representative, 
American Counseling Association

Friendly Teens

Since the Newtown tragedy, a spotlight has been placed on the mental health of our country’s youth, creating an expectation among many Americans that we would come together as a nation and respond to the need for improved school safety and mental health access. Indeed, dozens of bills were introduced in the Congress, and numerous Congressional hearings on mental health were held. In the Senate, 95 Senators voted in favor of the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act, which would have reduced youth suicide and mental health barriers to academic and social success.

Unfortunately, the effort to pass comprehensive mental health reform legislation has lost its momentum, leaving our schools and communities in a dire situation due to a one-two punch of funding cuts by state and local governments, and a polarized Congress’ inability to agree on a budget to fund essential community-based programs that support our country’s most vulnerable populations.

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Mental Health in Schools Act: Giving Kids a Fair Shot

Franken-071009-18449 0003It’s estimated that one in five U.S. youth experience mental illness. Yet less than half of kids with a diagnosable mental health disorder receive mental health treatment. (Some studies put this number as high as 80%.)

The consequences of undiagnosed and untreated mental illness in children are tragic. Over the past two decades, suicide rates have doubled among kids ages 10 to 14, and suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.

What’s more, half of the high school students with mental health issues end up dropping out. Children with mental illness are also at higher risk for developing substance abuse problems in adolescence.

We know that children do better in school when they are well fed and well rested. Good mental health is just as important to kids’ school success, and children who have access to mental health treatment do better academically and socially.

Yet we don’t do a very good job of meeting the mental health needs of school-age children. The Mental Health in Schools Act, introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) in the Senate and Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) in the House, hopes to correct that. It would expand access to mental health services in schools and give kids experiencing mental illness a fair shot at success.

“Addressing the mental and emotional needs of our kids is just as important as keeping them safe from physical injury and illness,” Sen. Franken said, in prepared remarks. “Healthy kids grow into healthy adults, and if we’re able to catch and address mental health issues early, we can help kids become productive members of society.”

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Highlights: National Conference on Mental Health

Official_portrait_of_Barack_ObamaWe don’t want to close out the week without acknowledging the National Conference on Mental Health held at the White House this past Monday. Attended by high-ranking government officials, Members of Congress, mental health advocates, educators, medical professionals, veterans, faith leaders, local officials, and people living with mental health conditions and their family members, the Conference focused on two questions:

  • How can we reduce the social misperceptions associated with mental health conditions?
  • How can we support people with mental health conditions to get help?

 

“Too many Americans who struggle with mental health illnesses are still suffering in silence rather than seeking help, and we need to see it that men and women who would never hesitate to go see a doctor if they had a broken arm or came down with the flu, that they have that same attitude when it comes to their mental health.”
–President Barack Obama

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What is MHFA and why should we care?

In Tuesday’s Expert Perspective, the National Council’s Chuck Ingoglia described the Mental Health First Aid Act, the proposed legislation which seeks $20 million in grant funding for training that prepares individuals to recognize and respond to emerging mental health conditions and crisis situations.

CFYM sat down with Lisa Goodale, Vice President of Peer Support Services at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and a certified trainer for Mental Health First Aid to learn more about the program and discuss the potential impact of this legislation. Goodale has been training individuals in Mental Health First Aid since 2010.

Lisa Goodale, M.S.W., on Mental Health First Aidlisa

CFYM: Why is Mental Health First Aid important?

LG: You’re much more likely to encounter somebody in a mental health crisis than you are to encounter someone having a heart attack or a stroke. Even though they may never encounter someone [experiencing physical trauma], people take first aid to be prepared. So when you look at the prevalence of mental health conditions, it’s a no-brainer.

People think they have to have specialized knowledge to help with mental health problems. But there’s a lot that people can do for themselves in those situations in terms of self-help, and one of the pieces of Mental Health First Aid that we highlight is how the Mental Health First Aider can help encourage someone to use self-care and support strategies.

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Mental Health First Aid Legislation

Chuck Ingoglia, M.S.W.
Vice President of Pubic Policy,
National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

MHFA
In January, legislation was introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to fund public education programs that train emergency services personnel, police officers, teachers/school administrators, primary care professionals, and students to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The legislation, referred to as The Mental Health First Aid Act, seeks $20 million in grant funding for Mental Health First Aid educational programming to:

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Nearly 50 Years of Legal Discrimination

capitolIn Tuesday’s Expert Perspective, Mark Covall discussed Medicare’s 190-day limit for inpatient care for mental illness. Today, we offer a bit of background on this confounding—and life-threatening—limit.

Fear and Politics

Eliminating the 190-day lifetime limit on has been on the stove—albeit not the front burner—for more than two decades.

The limitation originated in the Social Security Act of 1965, when Medicare came into being. In 1965, people feared mental illness; they were biased against psychiatric hospitals and those who received care there. Combined with political strife over whether the states or the federal government should bear the costs of that care, this bias could explain the arbitrary and discriminatory limit.

Despite numerous changes in mental health care administration, medical practice, insurance, and—arguably most important—perceptions and understanding of mental health conditions, the 190-day lifetime limit persists.

And to get rid of it, there needs to be a change to federal law.

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Poll: Reaching the 190-Day Limit

In yesterday’s Expert Perspective, Mark Covall called Medicare’s 190-day lifetime limit on inpatient psychiatric hospital services “arbitrary and medically irresponsible.”

Today, we want to hear from you! To better understand how the 190-day limit affects you and those you love, we want to know:

 

[poll id=”3″]

 

Vote in the poll and share your personal experiences in the comments below!

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Arbitrary and Medically Irresponsible: The 190-Day Limit

Mark J. Covall
President and CEO, National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems

Medicare denies specialty inpatient care for mental illness but not any other medical condition.

stockvault-stop-sign103079Over the past few years, we’ve made great strides in eliminating barriers to mental health treatment. In 2008, Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which requires private insurers to cover mental health and addiction treatment at the same level as other medical disorders.

However, lawful discrimination against mental illnesses still exists for seniors and disabled adults who receive benefits through Medicare.

That’s because Medicare beneficiaries have a lifetime limit of 190 days of inpatient psychiatric hospital care. There is no such lifetime limit for any other Medicare specialty inpatient hospital service.

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