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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt: Treating Behavioral Health Like Physical Health

  • As families in Missouri and nationwide mark National Mental Health Awareness Month in May, approximately one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness nationwide, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Unfortunately, many don’t receive the care they need.
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  • As families in Missouri and nationwide mark National Mental Health Awareness Month in May, approximately one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness nationwide, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Unfortunately, many don’t receive the care they need.
    We were reminded of this important challenge last month during the devastating events at Fort Hood, Texas. As Commanding General Mark Milley noted in the aftermath of this tragedy, the suspect reportedly sought help for mental illness, and he had a medical history indicating an “unstable psychiatric or psychological condition” that investigators believe to be a “fundamental underlying factor” in this catastrophe. Army Secretary John McHugh also told Congress the suspect was undergoing treatment for depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
    There’s no doubt that our military bases on American soil should be the safest place possible for our servicemen and women and for their loved ones. Fort Hood was a terrible loss for all Americans, especially for those who are willing to serve and for their families. In the weeks following, I visited General Leonard Wood Army Hospital (GLWACH) to learn more about the military’s mental health services, and I continue to talk to military leaders in Missouri and in Washington as part of my role on the Senate’s defense authorizing and appropriations committees. My goal is to work with our nation’s military leaders to guarantee our servicemen and women, veterans, and military families have access to quality behavioral health treatment – before a mental health crisis takes a terrible turn for the worst.
    As part of those efforts, I recently introduced the bipartisan “Caring For America’s Heroes Act” to bring treatment for mental illness in-line with the way physical illnesses are treated for military retirees and their families under TRICARE. I also joined my colleague Senator Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) to successfully pass a version of the “Excellence in Mental Health Act” last month to help address the nation’s fragmented mental health system. This provision establishes two-year pilot programs in eight states to expand access to community mental health services. The original legislation garnered broad support, with 25 Senators co-sponsoring and endorsements from more than 50 mental health, veteran, and law enforcement groups.
    Mental illness is just that: an illness. As we recognize National Mental Health Awareness Month, I hope my colleagues will join me in working to improve our nation’s policies. We must start treating behavioral health like physical health if we’re going to expand access and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

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