What Healthcare Pros Should Know About the Senate Health Committee's Mental Health Reform Bill

Mental Health Reform

Armed with a number of harrowing statistics about the country’s mental health crisis, many have long been urging that 2016 be the year of mental health reform in America. And the country’s leaders have been listening.

Members of the Senate health committee released a bipartisan mental health bill in early March. Drawing support from republicans and democrats alike, the drafted bill intends to address the country’s mental health emergency by ensuring that citizens suffering from mental illness and substance abuse disorders are able to receive the care they need.

The Senate’s press release commits to “bring our mental health care system into the 21st Century” once and for all with the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016. This legislation will carry with it a number of implications for those suffering with mental illness and for healthcare providers alike. We outlined the basics for you below.

The facts about mental health in America

The prevalence of mental illness in the U.S. is not a new issue. Here are some recent statistics reported by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in a given year
  • Nearly 10 million adults live with diagnosable illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression that interfere with major life activity
  • 60 percent of adults with mental illness didn’t receive treatment in 2014
  • About 21 percent of adolescents aged 13-18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life

NAMI also lists statistics about the consequences resulting from untreated mental illness, and they’re just as harrowing:

  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year
  • U.S. adults living with serious mental illness die an average of 25 years earlier than those without mental illness
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the third leading cause of death for people aged 10-24 and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-24
  • More than 90 percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition

For more information on America’s mental health crisis — including a number of helpful infographics, treatment resources and list of warning signs — visit the NAMI website.

The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016

Now that you’re familiar with the troubling facts surrounding this nationwide issue, it’s no wonder the Senate is choosing to move forward with mental health reform. As many of the committee members reported in the press release, we all know at least one person or family who has been impacted by this crisis. In the midst of a failing or broken mental health system, many feel it’s time for Congress to act.

The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 is committing to achieve the following:

  • Use federal dollars to support states in providing quality mental health care for individuals suffering with mental illness
  • Ensure that mental health programs are effective in serving those with mental illness through coordination between federal agencies and healthcare departments
  • Promote the use of evidence-based and up-to-date approaches for treating mental illness
  • Increase access to mental health care for individuals — including veterans and homeless men, women and children — while promoting improved enforcement of existing mental health parity laws

Further details on this initiative can be found here.

The future of mental health professionals

Official numbers have not yet been released concerning the ways in which the mental health reform will impact the healthcare workforce, although mental health professionals have been increasing in demand in recent years.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs for psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, mental health and substance abuse social workers and mental health counselors will all grow at rate more than twice the national average by 2024.

“The media exposure around mass shootings has brought the subject of mental health into the spotlight,” explains Mike Veny, mental health speaker and blogger at TransformingStigma.com. “I foresee a dramatic increase in the demand for mental health professionals over the next decade.”

Healthcare professionals across the board agree. “The Senate Health Committee’s plan will have a great impact not only on patient mental health, but also on the health professionals from all medical departments,” says Alina Baciu, general surgery resident and chief editor at TryHealthier.com. She explains that mental health reform will facilitate new research into more advanced treatment techniques. Any advances in treatment will require additional training to be implemented in already established facilities.

If you’re looking for a rewarding career in healthcare that will allow you to stay on the forefront of the nation’s primary health concerns, now might be the perfect time to join the mental health workforce.     

What’s next for mental health care in the U.S.?

The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 is still in its infancy, having only just been introduced in March. But this bill already represents some of the most significant reforms Congress has seen in decades.

Senate committee members have plans in the works to move the bill forward. You can stay up-to-date each step of the way by tuning into the Senate health committee’s Chairman Newsroom, as well as reviewing NAMI’s Mental Health Reform information page.

Do you have thoughts on the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016? Share your reactions in the comment section below.


*Rasmussen College does not offer educational programs that prepare students to become licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, mental health and substance abuse social workers and mental health counselors. Please see www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs we offer.

About the author

Jess Scherman

Jess is a Content Specialist at Collegis Education. She researches and writes articles on behalf of Rasmussen University to help empower students to achieve their career dreams through higher education.


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