Mental health EHR leader and respected behavioral health hospital support much-needed House and Senate efforts to overhaul mental health care and prevention system
Carlsbad, CA, and New Canaan, CT. —Medsphere Systems Corporation, the leading provider of affordable and flexible health IT platform solutions for mental health providers, and nationally recognized Silver Hill Hospital today voiced support for current efforts in Congress to overhaul America’s fractured mental health care system. Medsphere and Silver Hill see both the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015, recently introduced by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and the companion Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, reintroduced in the House last month by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), as a timely opportunity for Congress to address a persistent issue in the structure and quality of the American health care system.
“At Silver Hill, even though we’re a private facility, we still see on a daily basis how an economic downturn and decreased public funding for mental health services impacts the broader population,” said Silver Hill President and Medical Director Sigurd Ackerman, MD. “Without publically funded options, tens of thousands of people are left to fend for themselves in terms of treating their illnesses, which is a truly daunting task. America must restore the lost beds, refund the shredded budgets and give the mentally ill treatment options other than the emergency room.”
Both the House and Senate bills have an overarching goal of reversing the ongoing fragmentation of the American mental health system; in recent years states have cut about $5 billion in mental health services and eliminated more than 4,500 public hospital beds. Among the goals of the legislation, Medsphere and Silver Hill believe it is particularly important to focus on these specific objectives:
- Intervene early: Identify and treat the mentally ill before their illness has long-term impact on other people.
- Make HIPAA more flexible: Give clinicians the freedom to provide families with complete information so they can make informed decisions.
- Pursue involuntary outpatient treatment: Non-compliance with treatment leads to relapse; in strictly defined circumstances, involuntary treatment benefits both the patient and the public.
- Improve mental health/criminal justice communication: At least one-third of inmates and detainees are mentally ill. Communication can distinguish between criminal and disturbed behavior.
- Train police to deal with the mentally ill: Some community programs are in place. It’s time to consider broader initiatives that make law enforcement more aware of mentally ill behaviors.
- Restore lost beds: Restore the beds lost in the most recent economic downturn and then add more.
“In recent years, Americans have watched homelessness among the mentally ill increase and healthcare costs rise in large part because of visits to the emergency room for non-critical care,” said Medsphere President and CEO Irv Lichtenwald. “We cannot deal with these and related issues in a piecemeal fashion. Medsphere strongly supports coordinated legislative action that makes strong mental health care and preventive intervention priorities in the overall health care system.”
To elevate the importance of mental health issues and identify a point person to deal with them, Senators Murphy and Cassidy’s Mental Health Reform Act proposes an assistant secretary of mental health and substance use disorders position in the Department of Health and Human Services. When half the population will suffer from some type of mental health challenge in a lifetime—when mental health issues cost the United States an estimated $444 billion a year in medical costs and lost productivity— this seems appropriate, if perhaps overdue.
Medsphere and Silver Hill urge members of Congress to bring these bills to the floor, engage in open and constructive debate and pass legislation that has measured, tangible impact on America’s mental health care crisis.
About Silver Hill Hospital
Founded in 1931, Silver Hill Hospital, is a not-for-profit psychiatric hospital in New Canaan, CT, with acute crisis stabilization and longer-term residential Transitional Living Programs for those with mental illness and addiction. Silver Hill treats over 3,000 patients each year, providing treatment for psychiatric disorders that include addiction, eating and bipolar disorders, depression and schizophrenia. Many hospital patients present with multiple psychiatric conditions, and the Chronic Pain and Recovery Center is specifically designed to treat those with the dual disorder of chronic pain and prescription addiction. Silver Hill Hospital is an academic affiliate of the Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry.