Elected officials to the San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, Matt Haney and Hillary Ronen, have announced a new health proposal to take care of mental health and addiction patients. Mental Health SF, as the plan is being called, is set to provide 24×7 free treatment for mental health disorders as well as substance use disorders. If approved the plan is set to be the first of its kind to be set up in the U.S.
A survey carried out by the San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership highlighted that nearly 23 percent of the residents of the city struggled with their mental health. This issue was more prevalent amongst the lower income residents who were approximately 2.5 times more likely to suffer from a mental health disorder as compared to those who earned more.
Speaking on the proposed universal mental health care system, Ronen said that it was meant to help everyone, from people who were living on the streets to those who were insured but could not get appointments when required.
Need for plan
Due to the high demand for mental health care services, residents of the city had to face a lot of trouble trying to find a therapist regardless of their economic or social status. According to government records, the city of San Francisco has only 2000 beds allotted to patients undergoing mental health treatment leaving many patients with mental health disorders out on the streets.
Speaking on the condition of the city, Ronen said that it is heart wrenching to see patients with hospital bracelets and sometimes even hospital gowns roaming around the city, dazed and confused, left alone to fight their battles with mental illnesses. Her constituency, Supervisorial District 9, includes Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, which has the only emergency room which handles mental health cases in the whole city. She added that it was impossible to ignore such sights and it was time to revamp the system.
Why is mental health care in a crisis?
According to a recent study, there has been a 320 percent rise in the use of private insurance to cover substance use disorder and mental health treatments. In fact, claims for disorders such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression have increased by nearly 65 percent.
This is why, mental health treatment in the country is in such shambles. Mark McGovern, a professor and researcher of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in California said that the ever increasing demand for more professionals and treatment has challenged the capacity of the present system. He added that due to lot of delay and waiting, people who need and want immediate treatment fail to get so. Currently, as per reports, there are only 33.9 licensed psychologists for every 100,000 patients.
Laws like the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and Affordable Care Act (ACA) have been passed to ensure equal coverage for mental health treatment and substance use disorders and include behavioral health under essential health benefits. Despite such laws, it has been observed that as many as 44.6 percent American adults with existing mental health disorders and around 52.5 percent adults with symptoms of mental illness do not receive treatment due to high costs.
McGovern said that the implementation of such laws underwent diverse interpretations in the different states. While in some places mental health was equivalent to general physical benefits, in others, it was covered at a lower rate. He also said that the situation could escalate to a national crisis if not contained now, especially for those people who were in dire need.
San Francisco leads way in providing synchronized mental health
With a current budget of $370 million per annum dedicated towards mental health and substance use disorder treatment, San Francisco is now planning to invest in more than 300 other programs.
The Mental Health SF is based on the concept of coordinated care. According to Ronen, patients with mental health disorders or substance use disorders hardly communicate during treatment programs and are often taken to different treatment programs forcefully. However, no one talks to them about the benefits of these programs nor takes into account what actually worked for the patient and what did not.
Therefore, the new plan would include treatment centers with office spaces where case managers and social workers would be able to work together and monitor records of the past and present patients. The patients will also receive individual treatment plan and the resultant data will be shared amongst all the existing treatment programs in the city.
Ronen said that this would ensure that mental healthcare providers between different programs communicated with each other so that if a particular treatment was not working for an individual, they would be moved to a different program.
The project was scheduled mainly by the state health care money along with some funding from an IPO tax proposed by Supervisor Gordon Mar. Ronen also proposed a tax on the CEOs of the city to help cover the cost of the treatment provision. The tax, currently called as the Excessive CEO Salary tax, is meant to put a tax on businesses whose CEOs are drawing a salary more than 100 times that of an average worker.
Criticism of project
Though the plan is being appreciated by many, there have been a few critics. Rufus Jeffris, head of communications for the Bay Area Council, warned leaders against depending on a changing source for funding the project. He said that even though the city officials should be appreciated for their efforts to improve access to mental health treatment programs, they should focus on other ways to generate funds rather than adding taxes on CEOs or implementing the IPO tax, as the revenue from these was bound to change annually.
For the plan to be implemented, it has to be approved by at least 6 out of the 11 supervisors of the Board. If it is approved by the Board and signed by the Governor, Mental Health SF can be brought in as a ballot measure before the public by November 2019.
Treatment for mental disorders
The overall wellbeing of an individual is determined by both their physical as well as mental health. While people pay great attention to their physical health, they tend to ignore the significance of their mental health. Struggling with a mental health disorder can be draining and unbearable. However, seeking treatment for such disorders at the earliest can help the individual live a productive and healthy life.
If you or a loved one is battling a mental health disorder contact the California Mental Health Helpline. We offer credible information about evidence-based mental health treatment centers and programs available. Call our 24/7 mental health treatment helpline 855-559-3923 and talk to our representative to know about the finest mental health treatment center. You can also use our live chat service to get in touch with one of our representatives for more information.