New Freedom Commission’s Interim Report on Mental Health Finds ‘System in Disarray’
The U.S. mental health system "is in disarray" and is not "oriented to the single most important goal of the people it serves -- the hope of recovery," according to an interim report released Friday by the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. The report says that 5% to 7% of adults and 5% to 9% of children in the United States have a "serious mental illness" or emotional disturbance that affects functioning at work, school, home or in social situations. Quality of life can be "tremendously improved" when a mental illness is diagnosed early and appropriately, the report says, but it notes that the varying missions, settings and financing of private and public mental health programs act as barriers to care. The commission says that the mental health system is a "maze instead of a coordinated system" and "[n]avigating this maze" is left to people with mental illnesses and their families, who are "least-equipped to deal with the complexities of the system." According to the commission, 50% of people who need mental health treatment do not receive it because of barriers to care (New Freedom Commission on Mental Health release, 11/1).
Commission Chair Michael Hogan said, "The so-called mental health system is fragmented and in such disarray that frequently it can't get the services to the people who need them" (Fulton, CongressDaily, 11/1). The report identifies several barriers that "needlessly impede" access to care: fragmentation and gaps in care for children and adults; high unemployment and disability among the mentally ill; "insufficient attention" to older adults; and inadequate national attention to mental illness and suicide. The commission, which identifies successful community-based mental health programs, says that many individuals could recover "from even the most serious mental illnesses" if they had access to state-of-the-art treatments "tailored to their needs," support systems and community services (New Freedom Commission on Mental Health release, 11/1). The report is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.