U.S. Needs Integrated Mental Health Treatment System, IOM Says
An Institute of Medicine report released Tuesday says the U.S. needs a "comprehensive strategy" to improve the quality of health care services for people with mental illnesses and drug and alcohol problems, CQ HealthBeat reports. According to IOM, health services for people with mental illnesses and substance-abuse problems traditionally have been isolated from each other and from other components of the national health care system, even though many people have both mental conditions and problems with substance abuse.
"To make collaboration and coordination of care the norm, service providers should link relevant areas of their own organizations and form ties with other providers," the report states.
The report outlines a number of steps federal agencies can take to improve health services for people with mental health and substance-abuse problems, such as requiring HHS to "synthesize and disseminate scientific evidence on effective services for mental and substance-abuse conditions." HHS also could lead efforts to develop a system for measuring and improving the quality of care for people with mental health and substance-abuse problems, according to the report.
In addition, Congress should authorize and fund a Council on the Mental and Substance-Abuse Health Care Work Force to establish and implement strategies for helping health care professionals improve services, the report says.
IOM Chair Mary Jane England, president of Regis College, said, "America will not have a high-quality health system if equal attention is not given to mental health issues and substance-abuse problems. Mental health is inextricably linked with health and well-being, but treatment for mental conditions and appropriate use of substances is often separated from other health care."
Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said, "We know what must be done. The challenge now is to make sure that the report does not end up simply gathering dust on shelves in the White House, the Library of Congress or state medical libraries."
Charles Curie, director of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said the report will help inform the agency "as we move forward with mental health transformation, addressing the needs of people with co-occurring mental and substance-abuse disorders, and increasing capacity for treating substance abuse" (CQ HealthBeat, 11/1).
An abstract of the report is available online.