Integrating Physical Health and Mental Health in HR 2646

Many smart advocates believe mental health services and physical health services should be integrated as much as possible. I am personally not so sure. My experience is that whenever government allows mental health funds to be spent on anything but the most seriously ill, they are. So ‘allowing’ mental health funds to be spent on ‘physical health’ will lead to mental illness being ignored and other physical illness being addressed. That is my own (possibly wrong and certainly arguable) position.
Nonetheless, HR2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, includes numerous provisions designed to integrate mental health and physical health.

  1. One of the duties of the new Asst. Sec. for Mental Health is to develop a national strategy is to prioritize the integration of mental health, substance use, and physical health services for the purpose of diagnosing, preventing, treating, or providing reha- bilitation for mental illness or substance use disorders, including any such services provided through the justice system (including departments of correction) or other entities other than the Department of Health and Human Services; (Title 1, Sec. 101 (d)(1)).
  2. HR2646 requires the Assistant Sec. to create regular reports on the state of mental health and substance abuse services that includes  A summary of best practice models in the States highlighting programs that are cost effective, provide evidence-based care, increase access to care, integrate physical, psychiatric, psychological, and behavioral medicine, and improve outcomes for individuals with mental illness or substance use disorders. (Sec. 103. Reports (c), (1) (B))
  3. When deciding what programs to evaluate and disseminate, The National Mental Health Policy Lab established in HR2646 has to give preference to those that improve “the coordination between mental health and physical health providers” (Title II, Sec. 201) (a)(3)(A)(i)
  4. When the Asst. Secretary gives out Innovation Grants he or she must prioritize those for “integrating or coordinating physical, mental health, and substance use services”. (Sec 202 (a)(2)).
    State Plans to expend Federal Mental Health Block Grants (MHBGs) must must focus on “integrated physical and mental health services’’(Sec. 206 (c))
  5. States seeking workforce development grants must target programs that “improve care for individuals with “co-occurring behavioral health and physical health conditions” (Sec 207.  (a) (6)
DJ Jaffe is Executive Director of the non-partisan Mental Illness Policy Org., and author of Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill. He is a critic of the mental health industry for ignoring the seriously ill, and has been advocating for better treatment for individuals with serious mental illness for over 30 years. He has written op-eds on the intersection of mental health and criminal justice policy for the New York Times, Wall St. Journal and the Washington Post. New York Magazine has credited him with being the driving force behind the passage of New York’s Kendra’s Law and Congress incorporated ideas proposed by DJ in the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.