During the May 15 service, many of us pledged to write a letter to our politicians regarding the need for mental health reform.The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, S.2680, is expected to go to vote on the floor of the Senate by the end of May. Senators Boxer and Feinstein have not yet supported this important bipartisan bill.
There are various ways to convey this information to Senators Boxer and Feinstein. I have emailed the letter below to them, via their websites. I have also called, and left a “comment” on their phone, reading portions of the letter that were most important to me. Finally, when I called, I insisted that I speak with a legislative assistant, so that I could find out what the Senator’s position was on this issue. It will take a few days to actually speak with someone, but this three-pronged approach is most effective. For every person who makes the effort to do this, politicians assume there are hundreds of constituents who feel the same way.
- Copy the text of the letter below.
- Click the links of the two Senators listed below, fill in the forms and paste the letter into the comment area.
- If possible, call your Senator.
I have a loved one who has struggled with mental illness and has had difficulty obtaining a referral to in-network providers, including psychiatrists, therapists, and residential treatment programs. Our insurance has only provided coverage for hospitalizations that are court-ordered. We have not found any long-term residential treatment programs that are covered by insurance. We believe that our loved one could become a more fruitful member of society if they obtained proper treatment. This has effected our entire family. It is difficult to be successful at work when we are worried about our loved one. I hope that you will begin to focus on this important issue.
I understand that the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, S. 2680, is scheduled to go to a vote on the floor of the Senate within the next few weeks. You have not yet signed on to support this bill. I hope that you will do so immediately, and that you will work to ensure that this bill, which is weak in its current state, is improved dramatically. I hope that the following improvements can be made to this bill:
• Although insurance providers allegedly provide lists of in-network providers on their websites, few, if any, provide lists of out-patient mental health clinics, partial hospitalizations programs or residential treatment programs for mental health. Insurance providers should be required to provide their customers with information regarding residential and outpatient treatment programs that are in-network. Such lists should be available in a similar manner to other in-network provider information, such as primary care physicians and specialists.
• Insurance companies rarely cover psychiatric hospitalizations or residential treatment programs unless there is a court order in place. A GOA Report should be conducted to examine the following: (1) the percentage of insurance payments that are made for non-court-ordered hospitalizations verses court-ordered hospitalizations; (2) the percentage of psychiatric hospitalized patients who are released directly into residential treatment programs, partial hospitalization programs, intensive clinics, and similar; (3) the percentage of psychiatric hospitalized patients who are released without follow-up, who may possibly end up dead, homeless or in the criminal justice system.
• Many people in the criminal justice system have a history of psychiatric hospitalizations and ER visits. A GOA Report should be conducted to examine the potential savings that could be realized if such people receive proper mental health care services early.
• Many psychiatric patients would be capable of working, and contributing to the financial well being of our country, if they had proper treatment. A GOA Report should be conducted to examine the increased tax revenue and other financial benefits of this.
In the event that this bill passes the Senate, I hope that you can work with the Finance Committee on the measures that will increase the number of psychiatric hospital beds, increase rates paid by insurance to mental health care providers, expand the network of mental health care providers who take insurance, and achieve true parity for mental health.
I appreciate your time and consideration on this important issue.