Will Medicare Cover Your Mental Health Care Needs?

old_happy_coupleAnnual enrollment for Medicare ends on December 7, 2013. There has been a lot written about the mental health parity final ruling and the ACA or Obamacare. It is important to note that these new regulations do not apply to Medicare. In order to maximize mental health care seniors, should look carefully at their supplemental policies.

To better help seniors navigate their options, we are reposting excerpts from several relevant posts from the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. (CMA) and providing links to this valuable information.

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Do Gratitude and Mental Health Go Together?

Food for Thought This Thanksgiving

As we approach Thanksgiving, all of us at CFYM offer our thanks to people who we have engaged with and have supported this unique advocacy blog. It was our vision when we launched the blog in May to provide a forum to bring peers, families, policy and legislative experts together to participate in dialogue around the issues that matter most to us – access to quality mental health care.

We have much to be thankful for this year, and in the spirit of what CFYM is all about, we’d like to share a sampling of messages from our expert contributors. Read below what they’re thankful for as they reflect on the holiday.

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Why Aren’t Those Who Need Mental Health Care Able to Receive it When Needed Most?

stockvault-locked99163Over and over again we hear of tragedies that might have been averted if only people had access to quality mental health care.  The Daily Beast does an excellent job of covering the latest such tragedy involving Gus Deeds stabbing his father, Virginia politician Creigh Deeds.  According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch Gus Deeds did receive a psychiatric evaluation on Monday, the day before the stabbing, but was release due to lack of a psychiatric bed across the entire western Virginia region.

In Tennessee the department of mental health is evaluating their budget for the next several years...

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Final Parity Ruling and Obamacare

healthinsurance2Cause for celebration or just one victory in a long-term battle

On November 8, 2013 the Obama administration released the final rule providing guidance on how health insurance plans should implement mental health parity. In short, the rule states that mental health coverage must be equitable to how insurance plans cover other physical conditions. Restrictions accessing care and reimbursement for services can no longer be different for mental health in relation to other health care services. Additionally the ACA, more popularly known as Obamacare, requires that mental health coverage be included as an essential health benefit for plans available through the market exchange.  In short, as of January 1, 2014 private, marketplace exchange and Medicaid Expansion plans must offer mental health care and it must be with parity.

Much has been written about the ruling. Most of it positive. Bloomberg BNA states advocates are praising the rule. The National Council applauds the ruling saying it is “a huge victory for people living with mental health needs and for the nation as a whole.

CFYM has covered the topic in past blogs and has provided instructions on how to fight for your coverage rights by challenging an insurance claim denial. Carol McDaid of the Parity Implementation Coalition posted on September 19 that now is the time to become an informed, empowered, and vocal consumer. There is much work still to be done to ensure the civil rights and protection of people living with a mental health condition when it comes to access, however.

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Veterans Mental Health Stories Brought to Life through Artistic Stage Production

erasing-the-distance-logo-1This is the fourth in our series honoring Veterans during the month of November. In this post, we explore the innovative work being done by the theatrical troupe Erasing the Distance. Founded by Brighid O’Shaoughnessy the current production running in Chicago, brings voices to Veterans living with mental health conditions that were brought on while serving our country in the wars and conflicts of the last 50 years.

Raising the Curtain on Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) is a major mental health concern for our country’s Veterans and their families. According to the National Center for PTSD, PTSD occurs in approximately:

  • 11-20% of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom) Veterans
  • 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans
  • 30% of Vietnam Veterans

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What Are the Barriers Preventing Veterans from Receiving Quality Mental Health Care?

tom_berger

Thomas J. Berger
Ph.D., Executive Director of the Veterans Health Council for Vietnam Veterans of America

CFYM continues our series examining the state of mental health care provided in VA hospitals and centers. In today’s post Tom Berger, Executive Director of the Veterans Health Council for Vietnam Veterans of America examines whether or not the VA is meeting its own policies outlining how long a vet should wait to receive a mental health evaluation.

First, we must recognize that the Veterans Health Administration (VA) has made some significant progress in its efforts to improve the quality of mental health care for America’s veterans. For example, although not all mental health clinical staff has yet been trained, VA should be commended for its system-wide adoption (finally) of evidence-based cognitive behavioral treatment modalities for PTSD. In addition, the development of various web-based program applications and social media mental health outreach campaigns reflect a much better effort to reach America’s veterans. But while these efforts are laudable, there are reasons to believe they have not gone far enough, especially when accessing the VA mental health diagnoses and treatment programs.

As far back as April 2012, an Inspector General (IG)’s report concluded that the VA does not have a reliable or accurate method of determining whether they are providing veterans timely access to mental health care services and that the VA is unable to make informed decisions on how to improve the provision of mental health care to veteran patients due to the lack of meaningful access data. This is absolutely unacceptable

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Can Embracing the Recovery Model Lead to Better Mental Health Treatment Outcomes for Veterans?

Today, we continue to honor our veterans with a personal story from CFYM reader Toni Ankrom, U.S Navy, Retired.  Recognizing the impact peer support had in her own life, Toni pays it forward by advocating for access to quality mental health care for Veterans and challenges mental health organizations to continue to embrace the Recovery treatment model. 

I am a Gulf War Era retired, disabled Navy Veteran. I spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy. During ten of those active duty years I lived with bipolar disorder symptoms. I experienced most of the symptoms of hypomania and some of mania. I would stay awake for many days on end…energy, energy, energy…fast, fast, fast, with unusual creative thinking. These episodes were followed by the darkest depression which my wonderful husband helped me through – over and over again. The military finally treated the depression with medication calling it “situational depression” and ignored the mania because I could work and work like the Energizer Bunny. I was very lucky to have such a supportive husband. He made sure I got up, showered, ate, and looked presentable for duty. I have to say that I didn’t feel presentable.  I wanted to crawl into a closet and cover up with a blanket.

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Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Post 9/11 Veterans

Ralph IbsonBy Ralph Ibson, National Policy Director, Wounded Warrior Project

Care For Your Mind is honoring all veterans with a series of posts examining policy issues and advocacy projects around access to quality mental health care. In this first post, Ralph Ibson, National Policy Director, Wounded Warrior Project shares his views on the treatment options available to post 9/11 veterans through the VA health care system.

Efforts to provide a continuum of care to veterans

With high percentages of post-9/11 veterans now experiencing war-related mental health problems, the VA health care system faces a generational challenge. As Dr. Charles Hoge, a leading researcher in the field described it, “veterans remain reluctant to seek care, with half of those in need not utilizing mental health services. Among veterans who begin PTSD treatment with psychotherapy or medications, a high percentage drop out…with only 50% of veterans seeking care and a 40% recovery rate, current strategies will effectively reach no more than 20% of all veterans needing PTSD treatment.”

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