Schizophrenia, Citizenship, and Mental Health Reform

by Christina Bruni Patient Expert

In the U.S. Senate and House three bills have been sponsored that seek to address the cracks in the broken-down mental health system in America.

The Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S. 1945) includes proposals to:

  • Permit same day billing in Medicaid for mental and physical healthcare services;

  • Create an exception to the Medicaid IMD exclusion for acute inpatient services furnished in state or private psychiatric hospitals;

  • Clarify the cirumstances in which HIPAA permits health professionals to communicate informationto family members or other caregivers, support training of health care providers about the circumstances in which information can be shared with caregivers;

  • Implement a new grant program to stimulate early intervention and mental health treatment for children, youth, and transition age young adults.

The acts also have provisions for funding Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT). I wrote here recently about the seven benefits of AOT.

The Mental Health and Safe Communities Act (not yet assigned a number) seeks to prevent unnecessary incarceration of people with mental illness and foster enhanced treatment and services for individuals with mental illness while incarcerated and following release.

The bill specifies that federal resources should be used to expand programs with proven effectiveness, such as:

  • Pre-trial screening and jail diversion programs;

  • Mental Health Courts;

  • Veterans Treatment Courts;

  • Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs for law enforcement and other first responders;

  • Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) programs;

  • Other evidence based approaches.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646) has been reintroduced in the House. I reported on the original version of this Act in 2013. As I noted then and will note here, you can find and contact your senator and find and contact your congressperson on the government websites. There you can e-mail your representatives to urge them to get these bills signed into law.

Years ago in New York the "I Vote, I Count" voter registration drive had as its goal getting individuals with mental illness registered to vote. You can obtain your state's voter registration card at your local public library.

Without help, individuals experiencing the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia will not recover. Going too long before getting help will also most likely prevent people from achieving remission from schizophrenia.

I'll end here with one ulterior goal: enabling people with schizophrenia to participate in American society as full and active citizens who can speak up to demand their right to treatment.

For too long outsiders like the anti-psychiatry take-no-pills-at-any-time "consumers" and proud-to-be psychotic Mad people have pushed aside peers living with schizophrenia in order to advance their agenda, not caring who they take down or use as pawns in the process.

In this atmosphere of hate, family members have had their hands tied trying to get their loved ones treatment. Family members have also too often been blamed for endangering their loved ones.

The time to act is now. Won't you join me in e-mailing our elected officials to enact laws that have the chance of halting the permanent disability that occurs when treatment is denied?

Christina Bruni
Meet Our Writer
Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.