Lack of recognition, funding, and care for mental and behavioral health is at crisis level in our country. Behavioral health is a critical part of a person’s health, and impacts the person’s life, wellbeing, livelihood, and medical health, as well as the health and safety of family members and the wider community. Our lack of programs and access to care for behavioral health has filled our prisons with people who could have benefited from intervention and treatment. Proper preventative care and treatment saves lives, improves quality of life, and is more cost effective for the government than incarceration.
Health insurance plans (both public and private) should be required to include mental health care and substance abuse care.
Funding should be appropriated for the research and application of interdisciplinary approaches to treat mental and behavioral health (similar to advances made in cancer care through interdisciplinary research).
Better communication between a patient’s various care providers should be encouraged (behavioral health professionals, medical professionals, social workers, etc).
The War on Drugs has been a colossal failure and created the conditions that have led to the current opioid epidemic. We need to fundamentally change how we approach the issues of mental health and addiction. Primarily we need to shift the understanding of behavioral health as a issue of health and disease, rather than a criminal justice issue or moral failure. This shift in understanding can be fostered by public service announcements, school health curriculum, as well as public policy and funding approaches.
Behavioral health is an area of public policy which is already a priority for me. The opioid crisis has reached epidemic proportions. Suicides among veterans are on the rise. Our country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other country on earth. These are signs of the broader crisis of behavioral health in this country.
On a personal level, my father is a Vietnam veteran who suffers 70% disability from PTSD, and has suffered from substance abuse. I know both the profound suffering his behavioral health problems have caused, as well as the hope and recovery that is possible with quality treatment and an interdisciplinary approach.