The months of anticipation are over, the lawn signs advertising support for candidates are coming down; when televisions are turned on, we no longer see an ad stating that one candidate is going to destroy America and the following commercial claiming otherwise. People can now breathe a sigh of relief as; the elections are over. Whether you are satisfied with the results or otherwise, we are Americans and we just exercised our right to engage in Democracy. No one was killed in the process, tanks did not roll out in the streets, the world did not stop revolving on its axis and the sun rose and set. Our job now is to go back to being Americans and hopefully coming to an understanding that we are all in this together. We are responsible for solving our own issues and problems. Many people long for the days when our political system was not completely polarized and our leaders engaged in; “compromise”, where it is about the people that the elected officials are supposed to represent in our country. Not special interests, not a one sided political agenda but, true compromise, with a give and take agenda. That is the scenario where; neither party gets everything they want but, things get accomplished and issues get resolved that are supposed to make our country a better place to live in.
Mental health and addiction professionals awaited in anticipation, because the outcome of the election meant a different scenario under each candidate. With the president being reelected, the Affordable Care Act is in the works to be implemented. For mental health and addictions this proves promising for our constituents, especially with the inclusion of the Federal Parity Act; which could grant benefits, not previously experienced by persons with mental health and substance abuse disorders for many years. Depending on the states setting up an insurance exchanges or facilitating ones with the federal government, Medicaid expansion could be expanded at 133% – 138% of Poverty which would make many eligible for services through mental health or substance abuse treatment. The unfortunate deal is that some states have not been inclusive of this benefit in their plan. This could cause severe financial stress to programs that have been marginalized by years worth of cuts due to the states financial hardships. Now is the time to advocate for the benefit with your representatives so they are protected for people who need them. Once a system has been destroyed, there is typically no rebuilding it. Programs that were grandfathered in with zoning laws could not afford to rebuild, people who have sat back and watched a system implode typically have no desire to recreate it and, once destroyed, it can not be rebuilt at the same cost as when it first was built. So again, this is the time to advocate for persons with mental health and substance abuse disorders so that we can have a healthcare system that will be proud of for years to come. We owe it to the people that we serve, we owe it to their families and we owe it to the communities that the people live in. A healthy society benefits us all.
Some have adopted the notion that these people brought their problems on themselves. The problem with that line of thinking is that people will get their needs met one way or another. If we do not treat mental illness we have untreated people that engage in criminal activity and we pay for them in jails or other forms of incarceration. We also pay for them when they show up in the emergency rooms and receive uncompensated care. People that live with mental illness have a life expectancy that is 25 years less than the average population. Pay me now, or pay me later; a healthy society does benefit us all.