Many would like to see Hillary Clinton follow through on her mental-health plan if elected. PHOTO BY PATRICIA LITTLE
Many would like to see Hillary Clinton follow through on her mental-health plan if elected. PHOTO BY PATRICIA LITTLE

“Resources are limited and we do not have enough hospital beds in Monroe County to accommodate the demand. Anything the federal government can do to increase awareness and help our community provide the necessary care is appreciated,” said Pennsylvania state Rep. David Parker (R). “We need to increase awareness of mental illness and remove the stigma associated with it so that people will seek the treatment they need.”

Even before taking office in 2014, mental health has been among his top concerns, said Parker’s Republican colleague Jack Rader.

Clinton’s pledge is fine, just as long as she or someone makes good on her promise, he said.

“It’s always been important for me and any help we can get from the federal level I’d be happy to receive,” Rader said. “However, we at the state level have to do a better job of addressing this because it isn’t being properly addressed.”

Radar, who serves on House committees that include Children & Youth and Human Services, said that while funding services for mental-health programs is important, money must be used in a way that benefits sufferers of mental illness, families and providers.

“We need to get more money but we need to put it where it should be. I don’t want to just throw money at the issue, but I want to use the money where it can really make a difference,” Rader said.

Approximately one in five adults in the United States — or 43.8 million — experience mental illness in a given year, according to statistics provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

About 18 percent of adults in the country experienced an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias. Also, one in every four college students experience a mental illness.

Statistics like these must and will be met head-on if Clinton is elected president, she promised during a media call this week to unveil her plan to better incorporate mental-health services into general health care settings.

Clinton said this is her way of increasing access to treatment.

The former first lady and secretary of state told reporters that among the first orders of business she’d undertake in the Oval Office is to host a White House conference on mental health.

Steps outlined by Clinton include retooling reimbursement systems in Medicare and Medicaid and promoting early diagnosis and intervention, including a national suicide-prevention initiative and randomized 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.

Americans are losing nearly $200 billion each year because of a lack of care, understanding and tolerance, she said.

“The human cost is even worse with the suicide levels at the highest they’ve been in years,” Clinton said. “People are dying from conditions that go undetected and untreated too often.

“I have heard the heartbreaking stories for years about these incredible challenges,” she said. “During the campaign, it seems like the floodgates have opened.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said Clinton has released detailed policy papers throughout her campaign and her plan on mental health is just another example of her commitment to the issue.

“The policies she set forth on mental health will ensure that our nation tackles this challenge as a public health matter,” Casey said. “Anyone struggling with a mental health issue should be able to receive the care they need, and the principle is at the root of Hillary Clinton’s plan.”

Clinton, who leads Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by double-digits in most national polls, said that if elected, she’d see to it 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.

“I’ve heard stories of encouragement, of people who have been able to get help,” Clinton said. “We have to make clear that mental health is not a personal failing but that right now our country is failing. 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 and 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 have the information and the resources that they need.”

Mental health has been a highlight of the Clinton campaign, particularly after she met last year with individuals at town-hall style forums who said their families were struggling with mental health and other illnesses.

Clinton had earlier announced an initiative to speed up the process for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which recently claimed the life of actor Gene Wilder.

Clinton’s 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,” she said. “I believe together we can make sure that the next generation get quality health care without the stigma, shame or other barriers.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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