Statement by Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO, Mental Health America
“Last night, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. New members of the Senate and House were chosen to join him and their colleagues in Washington. And many dedicated individuals were elected to state offices throughout the nation.
"Mental Health America congratulates them all on their victories, and more importantly on their willingness to take on the difficult challenges that confront so many of our citizens.
"Among the most compelling of those challenges are mental health concerns. These affect tens of millions at any given time. Half of us will be diagnosed with a mental illness during our lifetime. Mental illnesses are as costly as cancers, and serious mental illnesses reduce life expectancy by more than twenty-five years. 57 percent of adults with mental illnesses say that they do not have access to mental health care. Mental illnesses are diseases of childhood, with half emerging by the age of fourteen. But only one child in every twenty-eight with a mental health condition receives compensatory education services to help them succeed in school despite that condition.
"Our policymakers must change these realities; there is no more time to waste. The impact of limited care and services is too severe – too much money is thrown away on our jails and prisons; too many lives are lost to chronic homelessness and incarceration; and too many families are forced to deal with the overwhelming tragedy of preventable suicide.
"Voters yesterday expressed their dismay with the perceived lack of action on the part of elected officials. During the past two years, members of Congress have put together bipartisan legislation in both chambers that will lay a meaningful foundation for mental health reform. These efforts have been spearheaded by Congressman Tim Murphy and Senator Chris Murphy, and by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Senator Bill Cassidy.
"These leaders – and so many others in both parties who have joined with them – have brought us all to the finish line for this legislation. But as with so many other issues we are not over the finish line yet, and that has disappointed many people. The members of this Congress – both those who are moving on and those who will remain – have an important duty to perform. They can leave a lasting legacy by carrying these bills across the finish line during their upcoming Lame Duck session.
"And then we can and should begin at once to build on that legacy in 2017.
"During the campaign, we have had an opportunity to talk about the need for a comprehensive plan to address mental illnesses, consistent with MHA’s century-long advocacy for mental health. Reform includes a continued emphasis on prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated services for those who need them, and recovery as the goal.
"We can’t just focus on treating what some have called “serious mental illness” any more, limiting our policy attention to deep-end, post-crisis services only. Instead, we must treat all mental health concerns seriously, and focus on earlier interventions and integrated services that promote recovery at the lowest expense of dollars, resources, and lives – in other words, take action before Stage 4.
"This is the direction in which we must go to change the trajectory of mental health policy in America during the next four years. And this in turn will change the trajectories of lives. We are hopeful that the President-elect and the new Congress share this vision. MHA stands ready to work with President Trump and the new Congress to put this plan into action – to realize the day that mental health is truly seen as an essential part of overall health, and the brain as a most essential part of the body.”