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It’s been decades since we’ve seen any significant action on mental health issues from the federal government, so a new mental health law that President Obama signed this week is a big deal.

It was part of a much larger health care package. Here’s what the law does for mental health (as summarized by the Christian Science Monitor):

• Creates a new position of Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse;

• Establishes new grant programs for early intervention;

• Directs states to only fund evidence-based mental health initiatives with a proven track record;

• Removes barriers to individuals accessing mental-health care and services;

• Promotes jail diversion initiatives and other programs to keep the mentally ill from being incarcerated;

• Expands access to mental healthcare providers and beds for patients;

• Requires health insurance companies to cover more mental health treatments;

• Requires substantial new data collection around mental illness and the criminal justice system.

I love that we’re finally acting on a national level to combat such a prevalent but under recognized problem. And we’ll have an someone — an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse — to take charge in making things happen and making sure the funds devoted to mental health programs and research are spent effectively.

It’s not a cure to our country’s mental health problems, but we could see some good outcomes. I am hopeful this will be helpful to those struggling with mental illness and increase access to more services.


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