The effort continues within the behavioral health care community to have mental health treatment seen as equally important to physical health treatment. On Tuesday, May 9th the Will County Mobilizing for Action in Planning and Partnerships (MAPP) Action Team will be having a special breakfast meeting to talk about that very topic.
This event will be in the Edward Outpatient Center on West 127th in Plainfield, with registration at 8:30 and breakfast at 9 AM. The program is called “On the Table, Your Voice Matters.”
“The action team meets monthly,” explained Dr. Scott DuBois, Adult Mental Health Program Manager for the Will County Health Department. “But at this time every year, the idea is to engage in some important conversation with mental health professionals and community leaders. It’s all about the mission put forth by the Kennedy Forum.”
The Kennedy Forum was created by former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy after he left office in 2011, following 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kennedy, the youngest of three children to former Massachusetts U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, come forward on some of his issues concerning bipolar disorder and drug addiction, and has made mental health issues his life mission; with the goal of removing the stigma that often prevents Behavioral Health from receiving the same priority as all other forms of health care.
Dr. DuBois says Kennedy’s efforts actually go back to his time in office, when the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act was passed. It was designed to place mental health and substance abuse issues on an even level with all other medical issues when it comes to items such as access to care, deductions, and co-pays.
DuBois also pointed out that while the 2008 law was aimed at insurance companies, the passage of the Affordable Care Act a couple years later simply made it law for Behavioral Health Issues to be given parity with other health issues. But at the same time, that caused a log jam in Will County.
“All these people were now eligible for coverage; but the infrastructure was not expanded to provide it,” DuBois explained. “It’s been very hard because while nationally you have one mental health provider for every 375 people, and in Illinois you have one for about every 500 people; Will County only has one for every one-thousand people.”
So what can be done to help? DuBois says one thing the Kennedy Forum is aiming for is to have the general public more prepared to help someone in a mental health crisis situation. “You have all these people with ‘First Aid Cards’ in their wallets, ready to help someone they come across who might be hurt,” DuBois explained. “We need to continue with the ‘parity coverage’ issue by having people with ‘Mental Health First Aid Cards’ as well. That way, they’ll be trained to know when someone is in trouble; and what to do first, second, and third.”
And getting professionals and the public more involved will be one of the main points that the Tuesday May 9th “On the Table” breakfast will be addressing. If you would like more information, please e-mail Denise Elsbree at firstname.lastname@example.org.