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. Personalize your message
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