TOWSON, Md. – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, joined physicians, hospital administrators, and community mental health care advocates and providers to discuss ways to continue improving the quality and reach of mental health care services. In a roundtable conversation at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital Conference Center, the senator and public health leaders explored potential ways to overcome the many hurdles to delivering the best possible care in cases of mental illness and substance abuse in Maryland and across the nation.
“Despite the prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse and the fact that mental health treatment can be transformative, barriers like cost and stigma are still keeping too many people from accessing the mental health care that they need,” said Senator Cardin. “Greater access to behavioral health care services is needed now more than ever, and we must find ways to continue building bipartisan momentum behind measures that make it easier for people to receive top-notch, evidence-backed treatment when and where they need it.”
Following the recent passage of Senator Cardin’s Improving Access to Emergency Psychiatric Care Act of 2015, the participants exchanged ideas on how to maintain progress on mental health reform. Suggestions included improvements to the reimbursement protocols of federal programs and private insurers; the expansion of the integrated- and collaborative care models of health care; around-the-clock availability of crisis intervention services; greater emphasis on community care facilities; and specialized efforts to promote access to mental health services for the homeless and in minority communities.
“Throughout American history, we have seen too many elected officials fail to recognize the value of investments in mental health care. But we presently have an opportunity to begin a sustained correction of our national trajectory,” said Steven S. Sharfstein, M.D., the President and CEO of the Sheppard Pratt Health System. “While some question the costs of mental health services and others wonder whether the federal government should play a major role in their delivery, we must never lose sight of the fundamental reality that well-conceived investments in mental health care strengthen our families, our communities and our country.”
“I am optimistic that we can build on recent victories, in large part because there is growing bipartisan support for advancement,” said Senator Cardin. “This is fueled by an expanding recognition that investments in mental health services can dramatically lower overall costs throughout the American health care system, and that there are additional savings to be realized through reforms of the mental health services delivery system. There also is expanding bipartisan support for progress because of the increased number of American families touched by addiction, which affects every community in the country and is now rightly getting national attention.”
“Our dedication to reforming mental health care is a natural commitment to improving people’s lives, and it needs to be treated as an unwavering priority on the national level,” Senator Cardin added. “I will continue working to ensure that America’s mental health care services are the best and most accessible in the world, and am heartened to be joined by so many highly accomplished and dedicated Marylanders who share in that same mission.”