Make Access to Mental Health Services a Key Part of Health Reform

This is a critical time to influence health care reform. The House of Representatives and Senate are planning to act on this legislation when they return from the July 4th recess. In addition, the Obama Administration has scheduled National Health Care Day of Service events across the country over the next week. While your Senators and Representatives are home for the holiday, contact them with the following messages regarding health care reform:

  • Mental health is integral to overall health.

  • Any new federal program to cover the uninsured must include mental health and substance abuse services as core benefits.

  • The federal parity law must be carried forward -- coverage for mental health and substance abuse services must not be subject to more restrictive limits than other conditions.

  • Improve coordination between primary care and mental health and addiction services.

  • This is urgent in light of findings that people with serious mental health conditions tend to die 25 years earlier due to inadequate treatment for other chronic conditions including diabetes and heart disease.

  • Increase access to mental illness and substance abuse prevention services including screenings for children and adolescents and funding for community- and employer-based wellness programs.

Contact your Senators and Representatives by:

  1. Calling their offices (find contact info for your local and national offices); or
  2. Completing the Email Your Legislator form with your information (below); and
  3. Raising these issues at any town hall meetings or other public appearances by these officials in your area.

  1. Complete the form with your information.
  2. Your message will be most effective if you personalize the subject line and message body.
  3. Click the "Send Your Message" button to send your letter.

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Send This Message

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Dear [Decision Maker],

I urge you to ensure that improving mental health is a key part of health care reform.

Mental health is integral to overall health but when funding is tight or benefits are reduced, mental health and substance abuse services are often the first place cuts in coverage are made. Thus it is critical that any new federal program to cover the uninsured must include mental health and substance abuse services as core benefits.

Treatment for these conditions has often been subject to blatantly discriminatory limits on coverage. The progress we made with enactment of the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Part and Addiction Equity Act must be carried forward by applying this principle of non-discrimination throughout health care reform and particularly with regard to any new coverage program for the uninsured.

People with serious mental illnesses served in the public system die on average 25 years earlier than the general population due to other chronic health disorders including diabetes and heart disease. Health care reform must improve coordination between primary care and mental health and substance abuse services.

Mental health disorders often begin in childhood and adolescence, increasing the risk of substance abuse and interfering with a young person's ability to do well in school and get a job. Unfortunately, because the early signs of a disorder are often missed, the average diagnosis occurs 10 years or more after the first symptoms.

Increasing access to mental illness and substance abuse prevention services, including an annual screening for children and adolescents, must be included in health care reform legislation.

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Sincerely,

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]
[Your Email]

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