Mental Health Reform Legislation Coming?

After several years, much needed mental health reform legislation at the Federal level may finally be coming our way.

I must state at the outset, the gnawing sentiment that at least some of the suddenly growing and politically fashionable reason for pols to jump on this now aged, creaky bandwagon stems from the recent years of increasingly frequent mass shooting we have experienced in this country. And the growing heart-rending and hard to shout down with caustic political rhetoric often based on hysterical fears of somehow losing “our” guns rabid pushback that seems to instantly spring from the same blusterers of certain quarters because, surprise, surprise, these atrocities are committed with guns instead of Nerf toys.

Also,  it must be said that there is the inevitable growing background myth that the mentally ill are largely responsible for the mass shooting atrocities, and, that if we have all kinds of wonderful mental health reform with more funding, more mental health personpower, it will somehow reduce these increasingly frequent atrocities. We are acting with good intentions to achieve a much-needed revision to our mental healthcare delivery system that has been neglected in funding and legislation since the Reagan era. It is like the highway system, out of repair, poorly maintained and starting to crumble and is known to have thousands of bridges and what not that are near collapse. I think the only difference is that more bridges have not fallen down. If that started to happen, the legislators would rush to the lectern-battlements and proclaim disaster and move corrective legislation through with politically commendable 75 mph speed.

A recent opinion piece on Fox News June 16, 2 by Dr. Rajaie Bamiji, “Dear Senators: follow US employers lead and move the Mental Health Reform Act forward, does a commendable job of listing the issues, needs and social reasons for acting on the legislation largely sponsored for over two years by Rep. Tim Murphy. This legislation has been stalled for months and months in the face of repeated external events that should have pushed it to the forefront of Congress’ legislative calendar. But this is the election season and there are still silent members of Congress in my cynical view that view anything to do with ‘mental illness’ as distasteful and something to be quietly ignored, and most of all a “social problem,” that doesn’t fall into the more well-understood lexicon of business. After all, it a social science, which is where all those pesky radicals and ‘lefty’ professors since Mario Savio at Berkeley in the early 1960’s come from…And all the business practices of corraling mental health care stemming from the world of business management, trying to transform healthcare in general and mental health care in particular have by and large not succeeded in forcing these arenas of human service care fall in line and obey all that well the laws of Paul Samuelson’s principles of economics [I for one took his courses at the University of Michigan and loved them].

It is true however, the mental health care personpower issues are so far behind, that it will take a World War II level push toward massive training of such professionals ranging from Licensed Counselors, substance abuse counselors, to psychiatric social workers, to Ph.D. and  clinical psychologists to general psychiatrists and child psychiatrists to address the shocking lack of professionals we have in this country now. We bemoan the number of computer professionals we have now sometimes, but in mental health we have roughly, and this is my own estimate, at least TEN times fewer the numbers that we need right now.

We have our “social” tasks cut out for us. I just hope that the recalcitrant among us can distinguish between the words “social” and “socialist” and start to do their job in the ‘right’ direction for the benefit of this country’s needs.




Author: Frank

I am a older child, adult, geriatric teaching psychiatrist with over 30 years' practice experience in North Carolina, first at Duke as clnical teaching faculty, then in Western NC as a primary child psychiatry specialist. I have taught and supervised child psychiatrists and psychiatrists in training and many other mental health professionals and taught at two medical schools. I have served in many public and private practice settings. My primary interest is in observing and documenting the ongoing mental health reform efforts in the State of North Carolina and documenting its sucessess and failures at all levels. My favorite pastime among many others is spoofing my friends and kids with my deadpan sense of humor.

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