"How the big biomedical bill advances U.S. Mental Health care" PBS NewsHour 12/13/2016
SUMMARY: Most of the attention around the biomedical bill President Obama signed on Tuesday has focused on faster drug approval and new money for research. But included within the massive piece of legislation are measures for mental health care. William Brangham speaks with Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., about the state of mental health care in the U.S. and what this law attempts to accomplish.
HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour): Most of the attention around the big biomedical bill signed by President Obama today has focused on faster drug approval and new money for research, but it's a huge piece of legislation.
And one key part that's received less attention is the attempt to improve mental health care in the U.S.
William Brangham has a look.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour): Advocates say this part of the legislation is the most significant step forward for Mental health care in nearly a decade.
The law promotes a range of mental health initiatives, including more evidence-based early intervention for young people. It expands outpatient mental health care. And to coordinate it all, it creates a new assistant secretary position.
For more on this, I'm joined now by the lead author of the legislation, Congressman Tim Murphy, Republican of Pennsylvania. He's also a practicing psychologist.
REP. TIM MURPHY (R-Pa.): Great to be with you.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Before we get into the specifics of the legislation, I wonder if you could just give me an overview of what you see where we are failing in our treatment of mental health care in this country.
REP. TIM MURPHY: Well, in any given year, 60 million Americans are affected by some level of mental illness, from the very mild to the very serious, 10 million with very serious mental illness. Four million get no treatment at all.
States spend an enormous amount of money, in the federal government about $130 billion spread across 112 agencies, although most of that is just disability payments. And we're not doing a good job, because what has happened is, over the years, when we have seen a dropping of death rates for cancer, it's gone down, diabetes, infectious disease, lung disease, AIDS, all declined, increasing for suicide, increasing for substance abuse.
And when we closed all those big asylums, those big hospitals that were out there for a century or so — we needed to close them down — but we didn't provide outpatient care. So what do we do? We have filled our jails with them.
The majority of people in jails, the state and local jails, are people with a mental illness disorder, too. Eight out of 10 people in an emergency room have some related mental health disorder. Five percent of the people on Medicaid are responsible for 50 percent of all Medicaid spending.
And those are people with a concurrent mental illness. So, you see, in terms of costs, in terms of the costs of lives, 959 a day, 350,000 in this country last year, related to mental illness, primary, secondary, that's more deaths in one year than the entire combat deaths of World War I — of the United States in World War I, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq, in one year. It's a serious problem.