DC and Me

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • I was in DC again recently. It seems to me I spend three out of every four weeks there for one thing or another. It's hard thinking about policy issues when I, like some of us, just need to breathe in and out and make it through the next day and the next day after that. But policy determines what kind of access you and I have to our doctors, our medications, our services, our jobs, our housing--in short, our lives. Policy is an important part of the work I have to do.


    So, I've trekked to DC and talk to policymakers, pounding home the need for insurance parity so that our illnesses are treated just the same way any other illness is treated. Why should my trip to my primary care doctor be fully covered by my insurance but my trip to my psychiatrist not be covered at all? Why should I pay just $10 for my acid reflux medication but $150 for my psychotropic medication? That's why we've been fighting for insurance parity. (Learn more about mental health parity.)

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    Besides parity, there are many other policy issues we are pushing. For example, we are working very hard right now to make sure returning vets have access to peer support in their community. If you've been serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, I wouldn't think you'd be at all interested in talking to a professional who knows nothing about your experience. But a peer who has also been there--now that could be very healing. To support these efforts, you can send a letter to Congress.


    I also just did a round of visits to promote increasing mental health research funding. Research on our illnesses' cause, treatment and cure is woefully underfunded. I used a survey we posted a few months ago to share the consumer community's message with legislators and their staff. I also used the stories many of you shared with me to make specific points. It was very, very helpful--thanks.


    But I wonder, when I make these visits, if I'm correctly reflecting the priorities of the depression and bipolar consumer community. That's why, recently, I asked the DBSA staff to post another survey, to help us find out what issues are most important to people as we create DBSA's policy statements. I want to make sure we're focusing our attention on the right issues--the ones the community cares most about. Policy statements describe DBSA's position, as an organization, on the issues most important to you, the people we serve. We plan to use these statements in several ways, including when we:

    • contact and meet with legislators and policy makers
    • give information to the media
    • set guidelines for our chapters
    • offer education to the general public

    The survey lists a variety of possible topics that DBSA could use to create policy statements, ranging from access to medical records to the use of seclusion and restraint. We'll focus first on the issues that garner the most votes from folks.

    If you have a minute, would you fill out the survey and tell me what policy issues are most important to you? This way, I can better represent the community when pounding the halls of Capitol Hill. To fill out the survey, just click here. I would be grateful for your help. And please check our website's home page from time to time-we often post surveys on our website, because we need and value your feedback and opinions.

Published On: October 02, 2007