It's clear from the April 2007 issue of "Letter from Linda" that Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare has "building a national service system for community mental health" [NCCBH] as her number one priority. She asks for our reaction to her thoughts and our ideas about how we turn a national tragedy into an opportunity for meaningful discussions and actions. I'm sure that I'm not the first to suggest that the National Council take the lead in those meaningful discussions and actions.
I suggest that the National Council form a task force to be made up of the major stakeholders including but not limited to NAMI, USPRA, MHA, state legislators, members of Congress, the U.S. Dept. Of Health and Human Services-Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, NASMHPD and Community Behavioral Healthcare Centers.
That it be divided into several committees such as , staffing issues, program evaluation, treatment outcome evaluation, supported housing, supported employment, funding issues,
mental health services in jails and prisons, reentry from corrections institutions, reentry from state hospitals and other continuity of care issues, is essential if it is to produce anything useful. Each committee should be staffed by a National Council representative if the task force goal is to be attained. Some other issues already being addressed by the National Council could continue to be worked on outside of the task force as long as at some point they show how they are to be integrated in to the national service system.
These other issues are the six key issues outlined in the May 3, 2007 Public Policy Update: 1] Medicaid, 2] Medicare Parity, 3] Mental Health and Addictions Parity, 4] Addictions Appropriations, 5] Community Mental Health Services Improvement Act, 6] Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act [MIOTCRA ] and some other issues outlined in the Public Policy Updates and Action Alerts. Among them are: Policy Alert:" Part B Competitive Acquisition Program, Categories of Drugs to be Included Under CAP [4/13.05]",April 26,2007 Public Policy Update: "Veterans' Mental Health Issues", Joint letter to Senate "Supporting Increased Tobacco Tax as Funding Source for SCHIP", Also, are some joint projects such as "Preparing for Future Standards by Implementing an Electronic Health Record System Now", jointly with Mental Health Corporation of America, Inc [MHCA], and Software And Technology Vendors Association [SATVA], Section 1] The stage is set for widespread adoption of EHRs, 2] Impediments to Acquiring and Implementing an EHR System, 3] How Can Standards Help?, 4] Getting ahead of the Curve.
An important issue is passage of the Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act of 2007. The National Council urges all members to call or fax their Representatives who serve on the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees, to which the bill has been referred, and ask them to cosponsor the Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act of 2007.
Perhaps, for the general public, the most important and most visible mental health issue is Homelessness According to the federal government, "Homelessness is the most visible manifestation of the housing and support services problems of people with mental illnesses". The Federal definition of a chronic homeless person is "an unaccompanied adult who has been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years". The Federal goal is to end chronic homelessness by 2012. Consumers believe and studies strongly support permanent housing as a basis for mental health recovery. According to the President's New Freedom Commission Report flexible, mobile, and individualized support services are also necessary, and"too few mental health systems dedicate resources to ensuring that people with mental illnesses have adequate housing with supports. It looks as though the National Council is on top of this issue and given enough time and resources can have a positive effect on homelessness among those people with mental illnesses. But there is a lot to be done among all three levels of government, Federal, state, and local.
Still, the most important issue is that of developing a national service system for community mental health and the National Council needs to take the lead and begin forming the task force NOW.