Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Columns

January 19, 2011

Mental illness demands health care reform

(Continued)

That’s a real problem when mental illness manifests itself as paranoia. If they’re out to get you, you aren’t about to take their medications.

Along with the legal difficulties of treating the mentally ill is the social stigma. Family members sometimes go into denial. Or they become frustrated with a system that won’t help. As for strangers, the general goal is to avoid the mentally ill, rather than push to get them treatment.

Thus we have a situation in America where the mentally ill frequently suffer with little or no medical aid. The lack of attention they receive is compounded by the lack of funding. Insurance companies, by the way, aren’t exactly rushing to provide coverage for these individuals. It’s not cost effective in a corporate sense.

That’s why government has to get involved, to make sure there is more funding and a greater understanding of mental illness.

Interestingly enough, a bipartisan effort to do so may be taking shape.

Over the weekend, two members of Congress, one Republican and one Democrat, appeared on CNN to discuss this issue. Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Grace Napolitano, a California Democrat, talked about better educating the public regarding the warning signs of mental illness and re-examining laws that allow seriously ill, and potentially dangerous, people to go untreated.

Napolitano warned, however, that the nation’s short attention span may deter any action. But she, Murphy and other lawmakers need to push the issue.

For the most part, members of Congress and state legislators are not mental health professionals. What they do have, however, is a public forum and the ability to channel funds to needed areas.

Mental illness is a badly needed area.

Mitchel Olszak writes for the New Castle (Pa.) News. CNHI News Service distributes his column.

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