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Join the Whole Health Campaign

April 1, 2008
by Ronald W. Manderscheid, PhD
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Making our fields' concerns part of calls for national healthcare reform

I am exceptionally pleased to be a part of the Whole Health Campaign. The Campaign seeks the inclusion of mental health and substance use care as an integral part of the national healthcare reform agenda. An attractive brochure has been prepared, and a blog site has been opened (http://www.wholehealthcampaign.org). The Campaign is reaching out to the presidential candidates' staffs to promote its key message: “Whole health” must include high-quality mental health and substance use care.


The Campaign is a joint endeavor of the mental health and substance use care communities. In a previous commentary (“Moving our joint agenda,” September 2007), I reported on the intensive effort leaders of these communities are making to work closely together. Over the past several months, these leaders have met and have agreed on a
single joint statement with respect to the three key actions being sought through the Campaign:

  1. Ensure equitable and adequate mental health and addiction treatment coverage in all public and private healthcare plans.

  2. Support policies that promote individual and family recovery from mental illnesses and addictions as integral to overall health.

  3. Commit to investing in America's future through prevention, early intervention, and research on mental illnesses and addictions.

As you already know, these three actions reflect the common core issues of our two fields: adequate insurance coverage, good quality care, and development of our future agenda through prevention and research. They also emphasize clearly that good mental health and substance use care is integral to whole health. What is most striking, however, is that the two fields have joined together to promote an important common purpose.

The three actions have been endorsed by 41 major national organizations, including the Campaign for Mental Health Reform; National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors; National Association of State Alcohol/Drug Abuse Directors; NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals; National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare; National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers; and Faces and Voices of Recovery, among others. Endorsements are being sought from state, local, and private-sector organizations. Along with an endorsement, each organization signs a pledge to work actively to achieve the three major actions being sought by the Campaign.

As the presidential candidates finalize their plans for national healthcare reform and for extending insurance coverage to the uninsured, it is critical that mental health and substance use care be part of those plans. An early dividend from the Campaign has been the preparation of a joint letter to the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate advocating for the passage of legislation providing parity coverage for mental health and substance use care.

Major work remains to be done to fulfill the Campaign's vision. We will need to work with the presidential candidates through the 2008 election, and with the winner as a new administration is formed. We also will need to become engaged in every state's universal coverage initiative. In every instance, this means positive advocacy, public testimony, campaign rallies—whatever it takes to get mental health and substance use care on the agenda.

As part of this effort, the 2008 Annual Summit of the American College of Mental Health Administration examined progress in moving the mental health and substance use care agenda at both the national and state levels, and participants learned more about the key issues. The 2008 Summit also opened the doors of the College to representatives of the substance use care community.

In addition, the Campaign is joining with the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (http://www.fightchronicdisease.org), another new entity also targeting the presidential campaigns. Chronic diseases, including mental and substance use conditions, now consume 75% of our national healthcare budget.

I hope that I have fostered sufficient interest for you to seek your organization's endorsement of the Whole Health Campaign and the actions it is promoting. I believe that this is something that we all can get behind, and which promises to have major positive effects for all mental health and substance use care recipients and their families.

Ronald W. Manderscheid, PhD, currently Director of Mental Health and Substance Use Programs at the consulting firm Constella Group, LLC, worked for more than 30 years in the federal government on behavioral health research and policy. He is a member of Behavioral Healthcare's Editorial Board. To contact Dr. Manderscheid, e-mail rmanderscheid@constellagroup.com.

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