Thresholds

Thresholds Statement in Advance of State of the Union

CONTACT:

Dave Bayless 312.533.0059

Emily Moen 773.572.5172

State of the Union likely to elevate the national conversation about mental health

February 12, Chicago –Thresholds, the state’s largest provider of mental health services, and its CEO Mark Ishaug, weighed in early on the State of the Union Address:

“We’re expecting to hear that the President is proposing to invest in mental health services.

In Illinois, more than 700,000 adults struggle with severe mental illness. The direct and indirect cost of mental illness in the state is more than $2.6 billion. Every Illinoisan knows someone who has experienced the challenges of mental illness: 1 in 4 adults struggles with mental illness in the United States each year, a total of 57 million people.

The time has come to move from talking about the dire state of mental health services in our nation, particularly in Illinois, to doing something about it. We expect the President will raise the need for improved mental health services in his State of the Union. It should not have taken a tragedy like that in Newtown, Connecticut to generate a conversation around mental health, but now that we are clear more needs to be done, we need to do it.

Last week, Governor Quinn talked about the importance of investing in community care for those with mental illness in his State of the State. Recently, bi-partisan national legislation, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, has been introduced to improve the mental health care system, in part by increasing federal funding for community mental health centers. Thresholds strongly supports these important steps forward, and asks our state and federal representatives to do the same.

Given the importance of access to mental healthcare in the overall health and safety of our community, it’s clear that we need to be spending more on critical services, not less. The men and women we serve need safe, decent, affordable, and permanent housing with supportive services, linkages to psychiatry and primary healthcare, employment guidance, and education counseling. Thresholds and our partners in the behavioral health community look forward to working with our federal and state representatives, the Administration, and Governor Quinn to fund these critical community services — community services that keep people healthy, and reduce unnecessary hospitalization and nursing home care.

Time is also long past due to fully implement the Mental Health Parity Act, and Thresholds is pleased that the Obama administration is expected to announce a final decision on the regulations in the coming months. The law requires health insurance companies to cover mental health services at parity to physical health services, and once final regulations are issued, it will increase accessibility to mental health care by providing more services at a lower cost to people who need them.

We are hopeful that the President will not perpetuate stigma by linking gun restrictions to those with mental illnesses. People with mental illnesses are no more violent than people without mental illnesses. Of the 120,000+ murders involving firearms committed between 2001 and 2010, few were perpetrated by someone with mental illness. In fact, The National Institute of Mental Health found that people with serious mental illness are 11 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population, and those with mental health issues more often hurt themselves than anyone else. Restrictions on access to guns should be applied equally to all people, rather than targeting persons with mental illness. It is critical that we not reinforce misconceptions that create an environment where people in need are less likely to seek treatment.”

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