As policymakers evaluate recently proposed legislation to modify the Affordable Care Act, one issue may stand out for its bipartisan support. The need to address mental health and substance use disorders in any “repeal and replace” proposal is of paramount concern to many leaders on both sides of the political aisle. The reasons for that bipartisan support are painfully clear.
Every single day, over 266 Americans will die from either a drug overdose or suicide. Substance use disorders and mental illness affect 1 out of every 3 adults in this country. Untreated mental health and substance use problems can be devastating and costly – for individuals, families, communities and society as a whole. The health of our Nation depends on improving Americans’ mental health and reducing addictions.
Unlike many challenges that face our Nation, there is strong bipartisan commitment to continue strengthening mental health and substance use prevention, treatment services and medications, rehabilitation, and recovery support services. Over the past decade, Congress has enacted and Presidents have signed a series of important reforms, including the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, various provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, and the 21st Century Cures Act. Together, these laws established a very important new framework that, for the first time in our Nation’s history, addresses mental health and substance use disorders on a par equal to physical illnesses.
Today, more Americans than ever before have access to the full continuum of life-saving care options for mental health and substance use problems. The challenge now is how to build on this progress.
Amidst all the uncertainty and rancor swirling around the healthcare debate, our Nation cannot afford to backtrack on its efforts to help many more of the 1 in 3 among us living with substance use disorders and/or mental illness. From the campaign trail, Donald Trump spoke passionately about the need to do more, saying “[i]t is tragedy enough that so many Americans are struggling with life-threatening addiction. We should not compound that tragedy with government policies and bureaucratic rules that make it even harder for them to get help.”
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