Congress debates continue to intensify regarding the mental health care reform scheduled for this fall. The reform of current mental health laws is seen by many as a targeted response to both mass acts of violence and the reality that gun control cannot solely solve these issues. This idea of a potential mental health reform that would make it harder for the seriously ill people to have access to weapons capable of mass violence is currently popular across the political spectrum, gathering bi-partisan support.
Senators Bill Cassidy and Chris Murphy are the authors of a new bill which outlined a series of significant reforms on the mental health laws still in action. They insist that the outlined reforms shouldn’t be voted upon because they are meant as a response to gun violence. Instead, they insist that the mental health care system we are working with today is broken and needs reformation. Sadly, the most recent shootings in the headlines are the main reasons which sparked reconsideration of the current laws on mental health care.
Sen. Murphy (one of the bill’s authors) wants to clarify some things even further. In a recent interview he said: ‘The reality is that more people with mental illness are the victims of violence than the perpetrators of it.’ He added: ‘I’m certainly nervous about equating mental illness with violence, but I recognize that a better mental-health system will have a downward effect on gun violence.’ The measures envisioned by the new bill include: more preventative care, integrating physical and mental health care systems, improving the Medicare and Medicaid services for mental health, the establishment of dedicated committees for related problems, as well as the strengthening of federal mental health parity enforcement.
The Current Mental Health Stance
In the past few years, some activist organizations advocated for replacing the term of ‘mental health’ with that of ‘behavioral health’ in order to remain more politically correct. Still, in this debate of behavioral health vs mental health, not everyone is on board with the new term. Some members of the community suffering from mental health issues argue that behavioral health is actually a more offensive and stigmatizing term. But, it’s hard to reach a consensus on the matter.
Still, you may already see some self-titled behavioral health insurance companies active on the health care market. Since we reached this point in our post, we should mention that mental health disparities are a big issue in the current mental health care laws, and also a strong point of the reform proposed. The federal governments is already imposing a parity between the amounts insured for physical health issues and those ensured for mental health issues (see the federal mental health parity), but these efforts aren’t yet enough to ensure disparities cease to occur. The plan of the announced mental health reform is to strengthen this parity as well.
Some of the most common examples of mental disorders that make the affected person require very attentive care are: depression (which can range from light forms to very serious ones), borderline personality disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, eating disorders (which encompass even radically different illnesses), schizophrenia, manic depressive illness (bipolar disorders), several varieties of autism spectrum disorders (including some social phobias and Asperger’s syndrome), and more. Though very rare, these illnesses can lead to violence and those who suffer from them are, just as Sen. Murphy stressed, more often the victims of violence rather than perpetrators. The reform of the current mental health care system cannot be but welcome if it leads to better care for everyone affected.
Providing people with better health care in all aspects of their well-being, including mental health, can be beneficial to our society: the people suffering, their families or caretakers, their employers (since better care can often make them more functional in a professional setting). This is why the proposed mental health care reform can have bigger benefits than just a curb of mass violence, and also why supporters across the entire political spectrum recognize its value.
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