Often considered the social outcast of healthcare, behavioral health has long struggled to obtain legitimacy in the eyes of the general medical community. But with more than 60 million Americans effected every year from mental illness, something has to change.
Further reading: Isn't it time for a 21st Century Pain asessment?
The 21st Century Cures Act is widely touted as a major win for behavioral health advocacy and better clinical outcomes. Given the overwhelming acceptance in Congress (94 in favor to 5 opposed in the Senate and 392 in favor to 26 opposed in the House of Representatives), it’s evident that even the staunchest of political opponents sees the importance of the act.
The law is far from perfect, with only a fraction of the funds going to behavioral health, but the Cures Act is a significant step in the right direction for the mental health community to be more accepted as a part of whole patient healthcare.
Finally, An Advocate in Government
In the past, government has rarely taken a definitive stand for the mental health community. One of the most prominent actions taken came in the form of The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act of 2008 (MHPAEA)—a federal law that ensured group health plans would offer similar benefits compared to those of medical or surgical benefits.
Related reading: This is why behavioral health is the new frontier in primary care
While this was the first step to bringing mental health to the same kind of level as the rest of the medical world, the Cures Act represents an important building block upon MHPAEA as it establishes the addition of a leader in government focused solely on behavioral health issues—an assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse. This person will head the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which will “lead public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.” Additionally, there will be the creation of a chief medical officer within SAMHSA to assist with program creation and development.