Mental and behavioral health care far too often considered separate from physical health, which not only makes seeking treatment more complicated, but also contributes to the stigma. Unfortunately, when ignored and left untreated, mental and behavioral health conditions can cause a whole host of lifestyle difficulties including homelessness and hunger. With proper treatment and care, the vast majority of individuals who suffer from mental and behavioral health conditions can experience much needed relief and live healthy, productive lives. Health care can and should treat the whole person.
First and foremost, California and the federal government should create parity between mental and behavioral health and traditional medical care. We must ensure that all patients have access to the care they need to live healthy lives. This means increasing funding to essential research at the NIH and CDC; increasing prevention and early warning programs; developing and expanding access to treatment programs; and destigmatizing mental and behavioral health conditions. There is no easy fix to these challenges, but if we provide the resources necessary we can reduce substance abuse, and relieve mental and behavioral health patients of many of the burdens they currently experience. We also need to better teach community leaders that those with substance use challenges need mental and behavioral health interventions like rehab, and that the legal system is not their only recourse.
Destigmatizing behavioral health is no simple task. It will require an overarching change in the way that society and the medical community consider and view overall health; but California can indeed lead the way. California should introduce mental and behavioral health parity in health care to ensure patients have access to needed resources. Additionally, California should implement health classes in schools that teach children that those with mental and behavioral health are not lesser or different, and should be treated with equality and respect. California can also take steps to empower individuals with mental and behavioral health conditions by increasing access to job training and employment opportunities that are accessible and allow people to live as part of our communities.
I have always been a strong supporter of funding and programs that destigmatize mental and behavioral health, and create opportunities for those who have mental and behavioral health conditions. I firmly support mental and behavioral health parity, and will work with my colleagues in Congress, and at the state and local level where appropriate, to improve the way we view, diagnose, treat, and discuss mental and behavioral health. Please let me know if you have any questions or need anything else.