Health care has dominated the headlines recently at the federal, state and local levels:
The Supreme Court upholds the
To help sort out what impact these developments will have on the emotional/behavioral health front, we turned to Mark Heyrman, a professor of law at the
Q: What does the Affordable Care Act mean for Americans with psychiatric disorders?
A: It may be the most important piece of legislation affecting people with
Also, the expansion of
Q: You are suing the state — along with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Illinois and Mental Health America of Illinois — to make sure the money from closing
A: What is lacking is an array of low-cost, simple services — medications, group therapy or periodic, individual therapy. ... For someone whose illness is in remission that is frequently all that's necessary to keep someone healthy. It could be put into supportive employment, so people can be gainfully employed and pay taxes. In Illinois, we simply have not done enough of that kind of thing.
Q: And what about those who are not doing so well?
A: For people who are quite sick, there are peer-supported services, where people who have a mental illness and are doing well are enlisted to help engage others in treatment before things get out of control. And then, there's assertive community treatment, which will check in on you, remind you to take your meds, help solve problems — such as a conflict with a landlord. ... It's still less expensive than a hospital admission or getting into the criminal justice system.
Q: Illinois has such a dismal track record when it comes to mental health, including getting a "D" in NAMI's most recent state report card rankings. Why are we at the bottom?
A: Partly because we have spent our money in foolish and expensive ways ... by putting people with mental illness in
Q: Why do mental health services seem to always fall to the budget ax?
A: There's a problem finding adequate support because of the stigma and failure of lawmakers to recognize its prevalence. People don't rush to be spokesmen for mental health.
Q: Do you think all the veterans returning from the Middle East with
A: This is the first time a lot of attention is being paid to the mental health effects of war. ... We're recognizing that repeated deployments can be worse than one ongoing deployment ... and more veterans died by suicide than combat. It's positive that the Obama administration has vastly increased services across the country for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Q: So what advice would you give people who aren't veterans, but are struggling and losing state coverage?
A: With the Affordable Care Act, there'll be more money for mental health in 2014. It is the job of everyone to try to help you hang on until then.