Report recommends transformation of U.S. mental healthcare

October 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Pharmaceutical Representative-10-01-2003,

The nation's mental healthcare system is beyond simple repair according to a new report.

After a year of study, President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has released its final report, which found that the nation's mental healthcare system is beyond simple repair.

Based on research, expert testimony and input from over 2,300 consumers, family members, service providers and others, the report found that the current system is unintentionally focused on managing the disabilities associated with mental illness, rather than promoting recovery, and that this limited approach is due to fragmentation, gaps in care and uneven quality. The commission recommended a focus on promoting recovery and building resilience.

Access to care, early detection

The commission found that minority groups and people in rural areas have worse access to care and often receive services that are not responsive to their needs, increasing the burden of mental illness for these individuals. The commission urged a commitment to services that are acceptable to and effective for people of varied backgrounds.

To combat the fact that mental illness is often detected late, and that as a result, services frequently focus on living with disability and not the better outcomes associated with effective early intervention, the report recommended moving toward a care model that emphasizes early intervention and disability prevention. To achieve this, the commission called for greater engagement and education of primary care practitioners and a greater focus on mental healthcare in institutions such as schools, child welfare programs, and the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Slow adaptation

The report also criticized the 15- to 20-year lag between the discovery of effective treatments and their widespread use in routine patient care and called for a more effective process to make evidence-based practices the foundation of service delivery. This would require that payers of mental healthcare reimburse such practices, and that universities and professional groups support training and continuing education in research-validated interventions. Though the commission acknowledged significant progress in research on mental illnesses, it highlighted the need for more relevant research to promote recovery and, ultimately, to cure and prevent mental illnesses. For a full copy of the report, go to www.mentalhealthcommission.gov. PR

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