How do we as a society think about mental illness? It’s a big question—and there’s more than one answer. But one thing is certain: There’s an urgent need for this issue to become part of a national discussion. Recently, we sat down with Mary Giliberti, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, who told us that the state of mental health treatment in the United States is in “crisis.”
“We feel like the urgency you see with HIV and cancer is the same urgency you should have with mental health care,” she argues. “We don’t just need a moon shot, we need a ‘Mars shot’ when it comes to innovations in behavioral health treatment.”
Our conversation takes place during a time of shifting opinions about behavioral health and greater emphasis on offering behavioral treatment in a primary care setting. We turned to NCQA’s behavioral health integration Distinction and how it can help practices improve patient outcomes by providing an incentive for them to incorporate behavioral health screening and services.
“It’s very important that behavioral health and primary care be integrated,” Giliberti explains. “My friend Patrick Kennedy always says we need a ‘check-up from the neck up.’ Which means, in primary care we should be looking at the brain. It’s on the top of your body for a reason!”
More Work To Do…
Naturally, the topic led us to Minority Mental Health Month and how primary care treatment can go a long way toward reducing care disparities—which can have dangerous, even fatal consequences, as Mary pointed out.
“[In our field, we] talk about ‘10-10-10.’ There are about 10 million people with mental illness, they’re dying 10 years earlier and they’re 10 times more likely to be in jail than [in] a psychiatric hospital.”
If there’s a silver lining, it’s this: People are starting to see how much repair our system really needs.
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