U.S. Mental Health System in ‘Crisis,’ Federal Report Says
The mental health system in the United States is in "crisis, unable to provide even the most basic services and supports to people with psychiatric disabilities," according to a federal report released yesterday. According to the report, the "fundamental problem" with the system is the emphasis on medicating people rather than helping them lead productive lives, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "The Well Being of Our Nation: An Inter-Generational Vision of Effective Mental Health Services and Supports" was compiled by the National Council on Disability, a 15-member independent federal panel, which forwarded its findings to President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (McDonough, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/17). The panel found that children who "experience dysfunction" in the mental health system are more likely to become dependent on inadequate systems as adults. In addition, adults whose needs remain unfulfilled by the mental health system are more likely to become dependent on "failing public systems of care." Poor mental health services and poor outcomes can follow people with mental health problems "literally from cradle to grave," the report states (NCD report, 9/16). The panel also found that state mental health systems "create ineffective service-delivery programs," and criminalization, homelessness and poverty rise in direct proportion to poor service and support (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/17).
The panel concludes that "visionary leadership, adequate funding and expansion of proven models" are necessary to begin rehabilitating the system (NCD report, 9/16). The "most significant steps" toward improving the mental health system could include expanding Medicaid eligibility and covered services. In addition, public systems must focus on "serving the whole person, and not merely the most obvious symptoms." The report recommends services such as counseling, job training, peer support, respite care and supportive housing (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/17). Although some systems are "proven models of success" in the country, the report states that "entrenched forces and stale thinking" have prevented them from being implemented elsewhere (NCD report, 9/16). The complete study 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.