Why Legislation Alone Can’t Solve the Mental Health Crisis
Kudos are generally in order when a lawmaker makes good on a campaign promise to address our nation’s ongoing mental health crisis. We need fewer words and more action. But we also need to be pragmatic about it. Legislation alone cannot solve the crisis. We need organic solutions capable of facilitating and sustaining long term mental health management.
One in five American adults experience some sort of mental health issue in any given year. One in twenty experience serious issues. The numbers are especially alarming among America’s youth, with more than 16% exhibiting a mental health disorder.
The numbers are not necessarily surprising to those of us at Horizon Health who keep track of such things. Staying abreast of the data is a key part of providing quality mental health consulting services. But to the average man or woman on the street, coming to realize just how many people struggle with mental health can be shocking. That’s what makes promises to address the crisis so attractive as campaign messages.
Lacking a Cohesive Strategy
A purely legislative approach to solving the mental health crisis is an inadequate approach. Yes, we need policies and standards. We need rules and regulations. But what we are currently seeing on the legislator front is lacking one key ingredient: a cohesive strategy. There are plenty of bills up for consideration but few commonalities that tie them together.
A post recently published by the Santa Fe New Mexican offers up a microcosm of the current challenges as they are being seen in New Mexico. According to the post, state lawmakers are looking at a bill that would provide $10 million to increase mental health hiring. Another bill would provide twice as much to create substance abuse treatments for the homeless population.
The list of bills goes on and on. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, dozens of bills are in the pipeline. Yet they do little more than throw money at a problem that has nothing to do with the legislature’s ability to spend.
Strategies Without Goals
A good way to describe legislative efforts across the country is a series of strategies without goals. State and federal lawmakers put together bills they hope will pass through their chambers and eventually go on to become law. Unfortunately, the priority is gaining passage. What is the goal beyond that?
When legislators are looking at dozens of bills, is there a goal behind those bills – a goal beyond simply getting enough votes to get them through? Therein lies the challenge. Not only do so many legislative efforts lack a cohesive strategy, but they also often create competing goals by reducing mental health services to budget items.
More Why Than How
Mental health advocates truly appreciate the effort put forth by legislators who sincerely want to address the mental health crisis. But lawmakers can only deal with the ‘how’ of the matter. They can address how the crisis is going to be dealt with by providing financial resources and tools. What they cannot do is address the ‘why’ of the problem.
This is where behavioral health management companies and their clients need to step up. We have the unique ability to figure out why the country is experiencing this crisis. We are positioned to figure out why so many people are hurting.
Combining the reasons for the crisis with the tools and resources necessary to undress it will yield better results than simply passing bills and providing funding. We need legislative efforts, no doubt. But we also need a comprehensive approach that looks at the crisis from every angle.
Let’s Get to Work, Together
Contact us to learn more about how Horizon Health can help you start a behavioral health program or take an existing program to new heights.