Hope Network urges support for programs

June 28, 2009
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Representatives from Hope Network recently joined nearly 350 public mental health and addictions administrators, psychiatrists, patients and community leaders from 40 states who went to Washington, D.C., to add their voices to the growing health care reform debate.

The local representatives, members of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council), met with legislators to ask for the resources that people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders need to live full and productive lives.

These advocates arrived in Washington as community mental health and addiction treatment organizations nationwide are experiencing a 20 percent surge in demand for services, according to a recent survey by the National Council. Demand is increasing and states are cutting funds — reducing services, closing programs and imposing hiring freezes.

The safety net in Michigan is in dire need of stimulus. The national health care reform agenda should include mental health and addiction services, which are vital to keeping us strong, safe and productive.

Nationwide, the economic, social and human costs of mental health and addictions disorders are staggering:

  • Mental illness drains our economy of more than $80 billion every year, accounting for 15 percent of the total economic burden of all disease.

  • Alcohol and drug abuse contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans and costs upward of half a trillion dollars a year.

  • A quarter of all Social Security disability payments are for individuals with mental illness.

Legislators representing Michigan can bring mental health and addictions treatment to the table as we discuss health care reform. We cannot afford to let this historic opportunity pass and we cannot let our most vulnerable citizens go without care.

To prepare for a new era of health care accountability while attempting to stem the escalating mortality rates of people with serious mental illnesses, Hope Network, along with the National Council, is pursuing four initiatives:

  • Mental Health and Substance-Use Disorders Included in Benefit Packages: Mental health and substance abuse benefits must be part of any nationwide health care reform plan, with equitable insurance coverage for mental health and addiction disorders on par with other health conditions.

  • "Federally Qualified" Behavioral Health Centers: Create a national standard of evidence-based treatment and supports for persons with mental illnesses and addiction disorders, with reimbursement based upon the cost of delivering services.

  • Co-location of Primary Care in Community Behavioral Health Organizations: Enable persons with serious mental illness to benefit from one-stop, comprehensive care for behavioral and physical conditions under one roof.

HIT Funding: Ensure that community behavioral health organizations are eligible for any federal health information technology funding made available to help physicians, hospitals and community health centers adopt and use electronic health records.

Phil Weaver is president/CEO of Hope Network, a nonprofit Christian organization founded in 1963.With corporate offices in Grand Rapids, Hope Network provides services in 170 plus locations to people in more than 50 counties. In 2008, Hope Network served almost 13,000 people throughout Michigan. 

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