Mental health care might be improved by government after a top researcher on the subject told lawmakers legislation on the matter needed to be more comprehensive. A Senate committee listened to specialist Thomas Insel as he explained that a greater effort was needed to apply research findings to existent treatments in order to improve care.
Two days before leaving his position as the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Insel expressed his thoughts on what the country needs to do in order to better the way mental health care is administered and the procedures that are used to treat patients. In his opinion there is a big difference between what specialists know about mental illness and what they do about treating it.
He also expressed his belief that much more can be done to better mental health care than what is being done at the moment and that mental diseases are complicated and require an investment in scientific research in order to obtain a deeper understanding of their functionality.
Although this is the first debate the government has had in almost three years on mental health, it is not the last, as the American Psychiatric Association will also be holding a briefing to discuss the decriminalization of people suffering with mental illness.
This comes as a reaction to the latest federal statistics, which show that about 20 percent of inmates currently suffer from a form of serious mental illness and that between 30 and 60 percent of inmates also have substance abuse problems.
Insel also approached the subject of mentally ill inmates, explaining to representatives that the criminal justice system has come to be used as a mental health system in the country.
Congress has been prompted by various mental health and health organizations to review the mental health system and subject it to much needed reform. Part of the attention the subject has been receiving of late is also due to the alarming number of deadly mass shootings that have occurred in the last months.
More than 30 health organizations sent a letter on Tuesday to Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which will be responsible for reviewing the system and also addressed Insel’s concerns. These health organizations, alongside scientists and medical professionals such as Insel himself are asking for a sustained effort to ensure better prevention methods, more timely access to treatments and improved continuity of care within the mental health system.
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