THOMPSON: New Affordable Care Act Mental Health Benefits "Essential to Gun Violence Prevention"

Some $100 million in additional funding to be made available for mential health services.

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena. credit Mike Thompson.
U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena. credit Mike Thompson.
 U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, released the following statement on Vice President Biden's announcement of $100 million in additional funding made available to expand and improve mental health services.

Some $50 million will come through the Affordable Care Act to help community centers provide more mental health services. The second half of the money, made available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will help finance rural mental health facilities.

"Improving our mental health system and expanding access to mental health care are essential components of gun violence prevention," said Thompson. 

"Because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans are gaining access to the mental health services they need, but otherwise wouldn't have. While we know those living with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators, making sure those who need care can get care makes our communities safer and helps prevent and reduce gun violence." 

In February, Thompson's Gun Violence Prevention Task Force released a comprehensive set of policy principles designed to reduce gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment Rights of law-abiding Americans. While recognizing that the vast majority of people living with a mental illness are non-violent and are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators, one of the task force's principles focused exclusively on expanding access to mental health care and improving our nation's mental health care system.  

Under the ACA, mental health and substance abuse disorder care is being expanded to approximately 60 million Americans -- including 7,559,000 Californians -- representing one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation.

Because of the health care law, for the first time insurance companies in the individual and small group market are required to cover mental health and substance use disorder services at parity with medical and surgical benefits. This means mental health care must be offered at costs comparable to coverage for medical and surgical care.

An estimated one in five adults experiences a mental illness in any given year. While most mental illnesses are treatable, those with mental illness too often cannot access needed treatment if they do not have health insurance that covers mental health services.

The Affordable Care Act requires most health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost to consumers. And, because of the law, starting in 2014 insurers will not be able to deny coverage or charge individuals more due to pre-existing conditions, including mental illnesses.



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