The United States is now more divided than ever, said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, at the organization’s annual conference on Monday. She minced no words when speaking about the Trump administration and the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
“The one thing that shouldn’t up be for debate is the truth,” Rosenberg said. “In the discussion about the American Health Care Act, it was the National Council’s right and responsibility to tell the truth that AHCA was a very bad idea. And all of you raised your voices through letters and phone calls and visits, and you responded.”
The House bill had included tax cuts estimated at $800 billion for “the richest Americans,” which the National Council calculated would have equated to enough funding to buy a $4 million house for every homeless family in America or to offer every school teacher a bonus of $250,000. Rosenberg also noted that 24 million people would have lost health coverage under AHCA, and Medicaid programs would have suffered terrible losses.
Ultimately, House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill from the House floor because it lacked votes, but behavioral health leaders must keep watch on federal healthcare agendas and proposed legislation in the future because the health policy war is far from over. She recommended that the industry continue to question any bill or executive order that could hurt those with mental health or addiction disorders.
“It would have been morally treasonable to the American public if we did not tell the truth about AHCA,” she said.
Rosenberg also recommended improving upon the still-intact Affordable Care Act (ACA), even as “the president has threatened to let it explode.”
“Make no mistake,” she said, “this could be a crisis manufactured by undermining the ACA.”
Mental health first aid
On a high note, Rosenberg announced that more than 1 million people have now been trained in mental health first aid—a goal the National Council has been working toward.
Trainers nationwide have delivered the program to nearly a quarter of a million people, while schools provided the training to nearly 100,000 people who interact with youth in school and community settings. Colleges and universities trained nearly 50,000 people, and many states are committed to providing mental health first aid courses to law enforcement and the criminal justice community.
Mental health first aid training began in the United States as part of a small pilot program in 2008 before expanding across the country.