“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie
As the year winds down and we find ourselves thrust into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I want to take a moment to reflect on what we accomplished this year and where we are headed in 2019.
With Democrats taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 2018 midterm elections, it means that repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the block granting of Medicaid are off the table, for now. Partisan division may yet rule the day, and as we saw when a Texas judge Friday ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, we must remain vigilant. For now, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land, but uncertainty reigns.
Fortunately, we are skilled at being vigilant. This year we were out in force, amplifying our voices on Capitol Hill. Some 600 of you attended Hill Day 2018, others connected with elected officials at home and many, many of you responded to our alerts. As a result of your advocacy:
We continued to promote Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). CCBHCs are remaking specialty behavioral health care in this country – providing crisis services; integrating physical and behavioral health; delivering medication-assisted therapies; implementing evidence-based practices; partnering with peers; and collaborating with law enforcement, schools and hospitals.
Mental Health First Aid continued to grow, with more than 1.5 million First Aiders trained. Our new curriculum for firefighters and emergency services personnel provides these courageous first responders with the skills to support themselves, the people they serve and their colleagues and communities.
By educating primary care providers through an initiative with Kaiser Permanente, we’re creating a health care culture that recognizes and supports individuals victimized by trauma. We’re are also working with Aetna, supporting their corporate office and health plans in West Virginia and Louisiana to implement effective trauma-informed policies and practices.
In collaboration with state associations via the Robert Wood Johnson-funded Delta project, we’re helping struggling behavioral health nonprofits explore payment models that can keep their doors open and deliver returns on investment for patients. With the philanthropic support of Alkermes, we’re bring community leaders from all sectors together to identify and address underserved and poorly served populations, including those who have been incarcerated rather than treated. And with an innovations grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, we’re reducing rehospitalizations for people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses.
We continue to work with our partners Relias, MTM Services, myStrength, DATIS, MHRGG Negley Associates and Innovatel to promote the adoption of technologies that have revolutionized other industries and are now being applied to health care – technologies that support and educate staff, increase treatment capacity and measure outcomes, put patients in charge of their own health, support the office operations vital to effective care and deliver psychiatric services into our clinics and homes from across the country. We can be both high-tech and high-touch.
More than 5,000 health care movers and shakers attended NatCon18. They participated in more than 200 sessions and workshops, heard from 400 speakers, explored the power of vulnerability with Dr. Brené Brown, experienced a “fireside chat” with former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and celebrated the newest Awards of Excellence honorees. More than just a conference, NatCon18 enabled thousands to learn, network and “Be Heard.”
So, how do we top this for 2019?
Next year, the National Council will celebrate our 50th anniversary by rededicating ourselves to our singular vision: healthy and safe communities. And that means Americans must be able to get quality mental health and addictions care when and where they need it.
Focusing on the next 50 years, “Fifty Forward”, we’ll prioritize the overall well-being of our nation. Startling figures show that average life expectancy in the United States dropped for the third straight year, driven by the twin scourges of increasing overdose deaths and suicides. Lack of access to care has replaced stigma as the leading barrier to a healthier America. That’s why we continue to fight for the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act. The Act extends the CCBHC program, meeting the growing demand for more mental health and addiction treatment capacity and giving more people the opportunity to recover.
We’ll build on the accomplishments of the past 50 years in science and evidence-based care and in parity and inclusion. We’ll continue to promote clinical integration at the site of service, not merely moving money from one managing entity to another. We’ll acknowledge that the social determinants of health means being poor is bad for your health and that diversion programs are unlikely to reduce recidivism unless we have the means to hire staff that have the skills to assess, treat and manage risk.
We’ll celebrate those in recovery and give voice to the patients and families still suffering. Our Medical Director Institute will continue to provide leadership on critical topics, including a forthcoming paper that takes on mass violence. We understand financing, quality and the process of planned change, and we’ll continue to use this expertise to solve problems and promote social justice.
All these issues and more will be discussed and dissected at NatCon19, when we take Nashville by storm!
During this season of light and love, I wish you and yours good health and much happiness. I am grateful for your continued support and look forward to a bright, productive and happy New Year!