Care for Your Mind Update
Two months ago, we shifted from discussing the importance of access and barriers to access to examining how a specific governmental policy, sequestration, was impacting the delivery of mental health services across the country. Even then, we could already point to examples of sequestration’s impact: the closing of a residential treatment center in Alaska, the reduced availability of civilian mental health professionals to military personnel, and the increased wait to receive residential treatment in Utah—not to mention the potentially devastating long-term impact of spending cuts on research, both in terms of treating people during clinical studies and finding effective treatments to mental health conditions.
It is unsettling, though perhaps not surprising, that the most-reported impacts of sequestration have been airport travel delays and the cancellation of air shows at Military bases for the July 4 celebrations. Because these cause discomfort for the general population, they are easy topics for media coverage. However, this does not appropriately reflect the level of real suffering happening as a result of sequestration across the country. This under representation of suffering is probably due to the fact that the populations arguably suffering the most severe consequences from sequestration are in fact underrepresented in general—the poor, people in the military, and minorities (an ironic realization as we reach the end of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, which draws attention to the need for mental health awareness, better utilization of services, and the development of culturally competent care for the nation’s racial and ethnic minorities).