The opioid crisis. A 30-year high in the national suicide rate. Mass shooting sprees. Every day we read sad and often horrific stories about disturbing events that affect us personally—and leave a lasting impression on our national memory.
Consider that nearly 20% of all Americans experience a mental illness or substance use disorder. And that this year, 45,000 Americans will die by suicide; 63,000 will die from drug overdoses; and 100,000 will experience their first episode of psychosis.
The common thread here is behavioral health, which affects us all. And that's why behavioral healthcare is everyone's concern. But here, too, our national statistics are troubling.
In its 2013 Report to Congress on the Nation's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Workforce Issues, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 91 million Americans live in a mental health professional shortage area.
Meanwhile, 55% of U.S. counties have no practicing psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers; 77% have a severe shortage of mental health workers; and 96% of counties have some unmet need for mental health services.
Our association—which represents provider systems committed to delivering responsive, accountable, and clinically effective prevention, treatment and care for children, adolescents, adults and older adults with mental and substance use disorders—has been at the forefront of mental healthcare in the U.S. since a small group of physicians established the National Association of Private Psychiatric Hospitals in 1933.
Eventually we welcomed mental health and substance use disorder treatment facilities as members, and, in 1993, became the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems.
We understand our nation's behavioral health needs today are as complex as they are numerous. And the opioid crisis, high rate of suicide and spate of mass shootings remind us why our members are critical players in America's healthcare continuum.
That is why we decided our association's name should better reflect all our members and the comprehensive range of services they provide.
We determined our name should:
Reflect the association's mission to advocate for behavioral healthcare and represent the providers who deliver care to those with mental health and substance use disorders;
Reflect the association's vision of a society where behavioral healthcare is recognized, respected and allocated resources with fairness and equity as part of overall health;
Represent our diverse membership;
Invite other organizations to join the association.
Throughout our discussions, we returned to one name that meets these four objectives: the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare. With this name, we maintain our national representation; we advocate for our members and those they serve every day; we include those who provide both mental health and substance use disorder treatment; and we emphasize that our organization represents those who provide behavioral healthcare services.
We have our work cut out for us, and our top three advocacy priorities this year include removing barriers to care, combating the opioid crisis, and expanding the behavioral healthcare workforce.
Last week we hosted our first annual meeting as the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare in Washington, D.C.
During that meeting, some of our members met with congressional lawmakers to highlight our advocacy agenda and help them understand why behavioral health is an integral part of overall health. In their discussions, our members urged lawmakers to eliminate outdated federal rules blocking access to cost-effective treatments.
Chief among these is the burdensome Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases exclusion, which prevents adult Medicaid beneficiaries (ages 21-64) from accessing short-term, acute behavioral healthcare in psychiatric hospitals and other residential treatment facilities with more than 16 beds.
In their Capitol Hill meetings, our members also shared our new tagline: "Access. Care. Recovery." These are the goals that embody the past, present, and future of the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare.