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Strengthening Mental Health Services

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Across our country, one-third of all people living with mood disorders do not receive treatment and fewer than half of those with severe mental disorders receive treatment of any kind in a given year.  U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow has been a life-long advocate for quality mental health services.

Widely recognized for her leadership, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow has been a life-long advocate for quality mental health services. As Chairwoman of the State House Mental Health Committee in the 1980's, she worked to strengthen significant parts of our State Mental Health Code, including authoring the Children's Mental Health Act, and the nationally recognized Family Support Subsidy Act.

Senator Stabenow has continued her advocacy in Congress and as Michigan's U.S. Senator. In 2010, her ENHANCED Act, which focuses on the critical need for research into the treatment of depression and bi-polar disorders, was signed into law by President Obama. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee that crafted health care reform, she sponsored the amendment to include mental health parity in this law.

Across our country, one-third of all people living with mood disorders do not receive treatment and fewer than half of those with severe mental disorders receive treatment of any kind in a given year. In addition, with 22 veterans a day committing suicide, the need for better community services is even more critical.

With today's renewed focus on mental health issues in Congress due to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Senator Stabenow is leading a bipartisan coalition working to de-stigmatize mental health and ensure Americans get the care they need.

Treating Mental Health the Same as Physical Health

Senator Stabenow believes that mental health parity - treating mental health the same as physical health - is a fundamental step toward quality mental health services in our country. It was her amendment in the Senate Finance Committee that ensured mental health parity was included as part of our nation's health care reform law, and now she is sponsoring legislation to create higher standards and provide new resources so that local community mental health centers can be adequately reimbursed under Medicaid, just as Federally Qualified Community Health Centers are reimbursed for comprehensive primary care services.

  • Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Law (Enacted, 2008) Senator Stabenow fought for the passage of this law, which prevents health insurance plans from charging more (through higher co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums) for mental health and substance abuse services than for medical or surgical benefits. It also guarantees that limitations on treatments (like caps on doctor visits) for mental health or substance abuse services are not more restrictive than for medical or surgical services. Senator Stabenow is working to ensure the protections under the law are fully implemented.
  • Mental Health Parity in Health Reform (Enacted, 2010) More than 62 million Americans will gain mental health and substance abuse coverage or see improved protections under health reform. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Stabenow authored the provision in health reform requiring all health insurance plans in states' new health insurance marketplaces to offer mental health and substance services at the same level as physical services, and now she is working to ensure that these services are maintained as health care reform is implemented.
  • Excellence in Mental Health Act (S.264) Senator Stabenow's bipartisan legislation, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, expands access to treatment and improves the quality of care at America's mental health centers by ensuring that behavioral health services can be adequately reimbursed under Medicaid, just as Federally Qualified Community Health Centers are reimbursed for comprehensive primary care services. This will help mental health centers meet new accountability standards and offer services like 24-hour crisis psychiatric services and integrated treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. Stabenow's bill will also support the expansion of existing centers.

Improving Mental Health Research and Training

Senator Stabenow has been working to raise the bar on research and treatment of mental disorders. She is also focused on improving the quality of care and giving our first responders the tools they need to better recognize the signs of mental illness and connect people with the care they need.

  • ENHANCED Act (Enacted, 2010) Depression and bipolar disorders affect one out of every five people in the United States, yet nearly half of all diagnoses are missed. Senator Stabenow authored the ENHANCED Act (Establishing a Network of Health-Advancing National Centers of Excellence for Depression) to establish national centers of excellence to develop better treatment, provide public and professional education and end the stigma of depressive and bipolar disorders. These centers of excellence are based on efforts already underway at the University of Michigan Depression Center and 21 other leading academic medical centers across the nation. Now established in law, Senator Stabenow is working to fund these centers.
  • Mental Health First Aid Act (S.153) Senator Stabenow has cosponsored this bipartisan legislation that will help the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and addiction disorders. The bill will help local communities train first responders, faith leaders, parents and others about the warning signs for common behavioral disorders and how to connect individuals in need of mental health care services with a professional. Studies have found that individuals who finished Mental Health First Aid courses demonstrated better recognition of disorders, had fewer negative attitudes, and were more likely to provide help to others.

Expanding Access to Mental Health Services for Children and Youth

One in five U.S. children has some kind of mental health disorder and according to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Senator Stabenow has been especially focused on making sure that children and families struggling with mental health issues get the support they need.

  • Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization (S.116) Senator Stabenow is a cosponsor of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization to strengthen the nation's first youth suicide prevention bill, which was signed into law in 2004 by President Bush. This initiative supports youth suicide prevention grants across the nation that focus on early intervention, assessment, and treatment services; college and university educational and outreach activities; training programs for providers; and mental health and substance abuse services.
  • Mental Health in Schools Act (S.195) Senator Stabenow is a cosponsor of the Mental Health in Schools Act that would expand access to mental health services for students. This legislation would provide support for schools who want to partner with local mental health professionals to establish on-site mental health care services for students. This bill would also provide assistance to schools so they can train staff, volunteers, families and others to recognize the signs of behavioral health problems and refer students to mental health professionals.
  • Children's Recovery from Trauma Act (S.380) Senator Stabenow is a cosponsor of this legislation to provide support for children and families affected by a wide range of traumatic experiences, including physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence or violence in the community. This legislation enhances the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative. Between 2002 and 2009, National Child Traumatic Stress Network members served over 320,000 children through direct clinical services, as well as outreach, education, and training programs.

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