By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
Last week, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released a health care proposal designed to support millions of Americans suffering from mental illness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a grassroots mental health organization, 18.6 percent of Black adults live with a mental health condition compared to 19.3 percent of White adults living with a mental illness. NAMI also reported that multicultural communities have less access to treatment, are less likely to receive treatment than Whites, and may encounter racism, homophobia and discrimination in treatment settings.
Approximately one in five adults in the United States – or 43.8 million Americans – experience mental illness in a given year. About 18 percent of adults in the country experienced an anxiety disorder such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. One in every four college students experiences a mental illness.
During a phone call with reporters, Clinton said that mental health challenges will be met head on, if she is elected president. Clinton said that she wants to increase access to treatment and work with health care providers to improve the integration of mental health services into general health care settings.
The former First Lady and Secretary of State told reporters that one of the first things that she would do as president is host a White House conference on mental health.
Clinton outlined a number of steps to improving mental health care including: retooling reimbursement systems in Medicare and Medicaid, promoting early diagnosis and intervention, including a national suicide prevention initiative and randomizing audits of insurance companies to make it more difficult to conceal when mental health care services are denied.
“Addiction, homelessness and a broken criminal justice system” are byproducts of a poor mental health system, Clinton said. Further, Americans are losing nearly $200 billion each year due to a lack of care, understanding and tolerance.
“The human cost is even worse with the suicide levels at the highest in years. People are dying from conditions that go undetected and untreated, too often,” Clinton said. “I have heard the heartbreaking stories for years about these incredible challenges. During the campaign, it seems like the flood gates have opened.”
Clinton, who leads Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump by double digits in most national polls, said if she were elected, she would make sure that state and local governments were fully funded and capable of handling mental health issues.
When there’s been cooperation, there has been success, she noted.
“We have to make it clear that mental health is not a personal failing, but that, right now, our country is failing,” said Clinton. “From launching a suicide prevention initiative to reforming criminal justice so that low-level offenders wind up in treatment and not in jail…we need to start focusing on the whole person. Focus on early detection and treatment and to make sure that mental health is covered by insurance.”
Clinton also cited the need to expand housing and job opportunities as part of the overall remedy for the nation’s mental health crisis.
“We have to expand providers and make sure they have the support that they deserve. We will make mental health a national priority if I am elected president,” she said. “We have got to make sure that every community in the country has the information and the resources that they need.”
Mental health has been a highlight of the Clinton campaign, particularly after she met with individuals at town hall forums last year who said that their families were struggling with mental health and other illnesses.
Earlier, Clinton announced an initiative to speed up the process for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which on recently claimed the life of actor Gene Wilder.
Clinton’s mental health care proposal also called for improving law enforcement training in crisis intervention and how to respond to those with mental illness.
“Why do I care so much about mental illness? This is what I’ve been hearing about and I want to take on the issues that both make headlines and that keep families up at night,” Clinton said. “Mental illness is not respective to income, status, race, political affiliation or any other category. I believe together we can make sure that the next generation get quality health care without the stigma, shame or other barriers.”