AT WHITE HOUSE
CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATION UNVEILS NEW INITIATIVES
TO ADDRESS MENTAL HEALTH
June 7, 1999
AGPA participated in the first-ever
White House Conference on Mental Health on June 7, 1999, chaired by the Presidents
Mental Health Advisor Tipper Gore, at which time the Clinton-Gore Administration unveiled
unprecedented measures to improve mental health. "To improve the health of our
nation, we must ensure that our mental health is taken as seriously as our physical
health. That is why we are taking new steps to break down the myths and misperceptions of
mental illness, highlight new cutting-edge treatments, and encourage Americans to get the
help they need," said Tipper Gore.
The Administrations proposals
provide parity, improve treatment, bolster research, and expand community responses to
help those with mental illnesses. Highlights of these initiatives include:
- Ensuring that the Federal
Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) the nations largest private insurer
implements full mental health and substance abuse parity. On June 7th
the Office of Personnel Management sent a letter to the 285 participating health plans
informing them that they will have to offer full mental health and substance abuse parity
to participate in the program. This step will provide full parity for nine million
beneficiaries by next year and ensure that the Federal government leads the way to
providing parity. The Department of Labor is also launching a new outreach campaign to
inform Americans about their rights under the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996.
- Accelerating progress in
research. In July, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) will launch a
$7.3 million landmark study to explore the nature of mental illness and treatment
nationwide and to help guide strategies and policy. This new study will collect
information on mental illness, including the prevalence and duration of mental illness as
well as the types of treatment that are most commonly used. NIMH also announced the launch
of two new clinical trials, investing a total of $61 million, to build on effective
treatments for those affected by mental illness.
- Encouraging states to offer more
coordinated Medicaid services for people with mental illness. Millions of
Americans with severe mental illness rely on Medicaid to pay for their health care. To
encourage states to make the most effective services available, the Health Care Financing
Administration (HCFA) will advise all state Medicaid directors that: (1) Medicaid will
reimburse for services provided in Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) programs targeting
people with the most severe and persistent mental illness; (2) Medicaid recipients are
entitled to medications approved by FDA for the treatment of serious mental illnesses; and
(3) states should educate Medicaid providers and beneficiaries about their ability to
enter into "advance planning directives" that set out treatment guidelines for
people who became severely incapacitated in the future.
- Launching a pilot program to
help people with mental illness get the quality treatment they need to return to work.
Of the 4.7 million Americans that receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the
Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that approximately one in nine (about
500,000) has an affective disorder (such as depression or a bipolar disorder). Research
suggests that many people suffering from these disorders could get effective treatment and
perhaps return to work. The Administration launched a new five-year, $10 million
demonstration to provide treatment for SSDI beneficiaries with affective disorders. This
project complements the Jeffords-Kennedy-Roth-Moynihan legislation that allows people to
buy into the Medicaid or Medicare program when they return to work.
- Educating older Americans and
their health professionals about the risks of depression. Five million Americans
over the age of 65 suffer from some form of depression, but many do not recognize their
symptoms as depression and do not receive the treatment they need. The NIMH and the
Administration on Aging (AOA) will launch an outreach initiative to educate the elderly
and their healthcare professionals about mental illness. The Department of Veteran Affairs
will also launch six new study sites to test two modes of primary care for older Americans
with mental health and/or substance abuse disorders.
- Reaching out to vulnerable
homeless Americans with mental illness. The Department of Housing and Urban
Development is launching a new initiative to encourage communities to create safe havens
where homeless mentally ill Americans can get treatment and care. HHS will also launch a
two-year, $4.8 million grant program to study the treatment, housing, education, training,
and support services needed by homeless women and their children given to as many as 2,000
homeless mothers and their 4,000 children, many of whom suffer from mental illnesses. The
Department of Veterans Affairs will double the number of "stand down" events to
reach out to homeless Americans with mental illness to help them get the treatment and
services they need.
- Implementing new strategies to
meet the mental health needs of crime victims. To ensure that the federal
response to community crises, like acts of terrorism or mass violence, includes a strong
mental health component, the Administration announced a new interagency partnership
between the Department of Justices (DOJ) Office for Victims of Crime and the Center
for Mental Health Services within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA). This partnership also will ensure that strategies are in place to
address the mental health needs of victims of violent crime.
- Developing and implementing new
strategies to address mental illness in the criminal justice system. SAMHSA and
DOJ are hosting a conference during this summer to focus on how the criminal justice
system can prevent crime by mentally ill people, and address the needs of offenders with
mental illness. Following this conference, DOJ will launch an outreach effort to educate
the criminal justice community on how better to serve people with mental health needs.
This initiative will include a new partnership with the National GAINS center so that
communities interested in pursuing these approaches can get technical assistance and ideas
about how to implement successful strategies.
- Implementing a new comprehensive
approach to address combat stress in the military. At least 30 percent of those
who have spent time in war zones experience combat stress reaction. On June 7th
the President directed the Department of Defense to report back within 180 days on an
implementation plan for a more comprehensive combat stress program throughout the
military. DOD will also hold a conference this fall to develop strategies and educate
military leaders and medical personnel about the need to enhance current prevention
- Launching the expansion of the
"Caring for Every Child" mental health campaign. At least one in ten
children and adolescents may have behavioral, or mental health problems. The
Administration will launch a five-year $5 million dollar campaign in targeted communities
to highlight the special mental health needs of children.
- Improving the mental health of
Native American youth. The suicide rate for Native Americans between the ages of
five and 24 years old is three times higher than the rest of the U.S. population in this
age group. This initiative allocates at least $5 million for a collaboration between the
Departments of Interior, Justice, Education, and HHS, to go to ten Native American
communities to develop effective strategies to address mental health needs of youth in
settings such as the home, school, treatment centers, and the juvenile justice system.
- The Administration also
challenged Congress to pass legislation to improve care and services for people with
mental illness. The Administration urged Congress to:
- Pass the
Jeffords-Kennedy-Roth-Moynihan-Lazio-Waxman-Bliley-Dingell legislation that would enable
people with disabilities to return to work by accessing affordable health insurance.
- Hold hearings on the mental health
parity law to review its strengths and weaknesses.
- Fund the historic $70 million increase
in the mental health grant.
- Pass a strong enforceable patients
bill of rights which ensures that people with mental health needs obtain critical
protections such as access to specialists and the continuity of care protections.
- Pass strong comprehensive privacy and
legislation to eliminate genetic discrimination.