Editorial

Mental health illness deserves same support as cancer

August 7, 2015
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The absence of mental health parity and lack of public concern for those with a mental illness is evident from the drama played or playing out in every corner of the country — on military bases, on street corners, and especially in movie theaters used as stages of demonstration.

A person who is ill with cancer is often supported by new friendships and fundraising efforts; a person ill with a disease of the brain is isolated, and even if family provides a safety net, there is little, if any, guidance or support.

Every place of employment, not just retail establishments, can be impacted by the results of such lack of care and concern. It is interesting to note that three local business professionals have teamed up on the subject with a 2015 interactive ArtPrize entry, “Rise Up”: an 8-by-16-foot mosaic made of shattered glass that will be installed in front of DeVos Place on Monroe Avenue. It is a call to action.

So, too, is this Business Journal editorial comment, especially in regard to House Bill 4674, which strengthens the 2005 “Kevin’s Law,” allowing judges to order services to oversee a patient’s care and therapy sessions and holds mental health providers accountable for ensuring patients stay well after leaving a hospital or care facility. The new bill also provides training for court and affiliated agencies to enforce Kevin’s Law.

Mental health illnesses are in no way rare. A study completed by Public Sector Consultants in Lansing for state agencies reports approximately 26 percent of American adults experience a mental health illness every year — a little more than one in four people — and one in every 17 copes with a serious mental health illness.

The study also shows the indirect cost of mental illness due to lost productivity in the United States was estimated in 2002 at $193.2 billion.

The World Health Organization, the World Bank and Harvard University, in their Global Burden of Disease Study, rank mental illness as the second most burdensome disease in established market economies, causing an estimated average 15 years of life lost due to premature death and disability. It is estimated by the studies that 20 percent of those suffering are homeless.

Mental health parity is in fact the law, represented in the Affordable Care Act, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley both have renewed the state’s focus on studies, legislation and commissions to assure improved systems of providing care for those suffering.

The recent pleas and tears of mothers in courtrooms who have unsuccessfully attempted to get help for their children with mental illness are the real-world background that makes the case for swift passage of HB 4674.

The “system” inequities must be as urgently addressed as a life threatened by cancer.

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