Awake! The day for important advocacy is upon us | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

Awake! The day for important advocacy is upon us

August 7, 2015
by Ron Manderscheid, PhD
| Reprints

As the waning days of summer float away like a soft cloud on a friendly breeze, we must continue to wonder whether this Congress actually will pass a viable piece of mental health legislation this year. In the U.S. House, Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) recently have reintroduced their “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act“(HR 2646). In the U.S. Senate, Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) just have introduced the “Mental Health Reform Act of 2015.“

Both of these bills include important advances for the field. However, both also include provisions that many of us will find to be problematical. On balance, the Senate bill is better than that of the House.

However, rather than simply analyze these bills, or several lesser bills that also have been introduced recently, it will be very important that we actually state and act on our “must” principles--those mental lines in the sand that we definitely do not want to cross. I will begin this very important process here. I do hope that you will add to, elaborate, and use these principles. They can become our yardstick on where to place our energy around current advocacy endeavors.

The following are five recommended core principles:

Principle 1:  Do no harm to persons with mental health or substance use conditions.  This means that our care systems must be designed to be trauma informed and recovery focused, and must fully respect human dignity. Much progress has been made in each of these areas during the past decade; we must protect that progress and develop it going forward. Consumers and peer supporters are the very best judges to determine whether these essential criteria are being met.

Principle 2: Do no harm to the community or its members.  This means that our care systems must be prepared for crises and must engage in community interventions to prevent crises. We must have operational capacity to reach out and to work with community schools, county jails, homeless programs, and local businesses, among others. All local police must have crisis intervention training, and restoration services must be available as essential alternatives to incarceration. The front end of these systems must include warm call-in lines operated by consumers, as well as peer supporters placed in hospital emergency rooms, county jails, and local courts.

Principle 3: Engage in full integration with health and social service entities. The mandate for full integration of mental health and substance use services with primary health care has been crystal clear for decades. Just coming into focus now is the need to integrate social services, such as housing, job, and social supports, into our new health and medical homes. Health services simply cannot be effective without the availability of these supports.

Principle 4: Rapidly implement disease prevention and health promotion services. Both types of services represent exciting and essential features for behavioral healthcare in the era of the Affordable Care Act. In less than a decade, our current disease care system will be transformed into one in which significant attention and resources will be devoted to wellbeing rather than illness. As this unfolds, it also is becoming clear that behavioral healthcare will have an emerging role with businesses as senior managers adopt the culture of wellbeing for their employees and related family members.




You had my participation right up to # 5. You lost it when you used a specific example (Australia) because now, if I endorse your 5 points I am also having to endorse Australia's point of view. It also gives room to attach gun legislation to mental health bills. The two issues need to be detached from each other. It's a shame you could not leave the last sentence off your statement so that it could simply read.. . . "Principle 5: Do not confuse mental health and substance use with other issues such as gun control that the Congress has failed to address. Stated very boldly, a good mental health bill will not and cannot substitute for national legislation to control the use of guns. Further, we do not want mental health and substance use consumers to be scapegoated because the Congress has failed to act on this issue."
Thanks for listening


Ron Manderscheid

Exec. Dir., NACBHDD and NARMH

Ron Manderscheid


Ron Manderscheid, Ph.D., serves as the Executive Director of the National Association of County...

The opinions expressed by Behavioral Healthcare Executive bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone and are not meant to reflect the opinions of the publication.