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Vermont and several other states are asking federal regulators to approve the use of Medicaid funds for health-care services to prisoners shortly before their release. Approval by CMS would mark the first break in the firewall that has kept Medicaid out of prisons and would address the problem of interrupted care faced by newly released prisoners suffering from chronic illnesses, mental health problems, or substance use disorder as they transition to life beyond bars. “Almost 80% of individuals being released from prison or jail have a serious medical issue, whether it be substance use disorder, chronic illness or psychiatric conditions,” said Shannon Scully, senior manager of criminal justice policy at NAMI. “And we know that when we can make sure that people can continue to get care right away when they are released, their outcomes are better, and their chances of re-incarceration go down. That’s why this is so important.”
The effects of systemic racism on Black Americans have been persistent and profound, as the National Alliance on Mental Illness points out, and the increase in media reports and images of police brutality and violence inflicted upon members of the Black community has added insult to injury. As mental health challenges continue to rise in this community, some Black Americans still aren’t receiving the mental health care and treatment they may need. This is especially true for Black men, who are not only affected by the general barriers to medical treatment, but also have internalized certain behaviors of Black masculinity, impacting their help-seeking behaviors. Despite suspected mental health issues, Black men are often reluctant to seek treatment. Lack of access to services is another factor that prevents adequate mental health care, according to NAMI. Resources can be difficult to obtain when people don’t have health insurance, have demanding shift jobs, live in locations with few services, or don't have reliable transportation. NAMI is a great resource for guidance on the different types of mental health care providers and how to select an expert.
According to NIMH, the primary distinctions between typical anxiety and anxiety disorders are the duration and the extent that the anxiety impacts daily life. People with anxiety disorders feel anxious most of the time. Their anxiety is so intense that it causes problems with their relationships, career, and health. There are many ways to manage anxiety, medication can be necessary to improve and maintain a quality of life. Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO, told Everyday Health that anxiety is different for each person, so what works for one might not work for another. He emphasized that working with your doctor to find the right balance of psychotherapy, medication, and exercise is the ideal way to treat anxiety.
This fall, the CDC identified mental health disorders as underlying health conditions that may result in more serious cases of COVID-19 or, even, dying from the virus. Katlyn Nemani, MD, research assistant professor in NYU Langone Health's Department of Psychiatry, stressed that, in her view, people with severe mental illness, schizophrenia in particular, are at the most risk. Christine Crawford, MD, MPH, associate medical director at NAMI, told The New York Times that chronic mental health conditions can "wreak havoc on the body's immune system," making people more vulnerable.
The FCC will require that phone companies allow people to text as well as call a new “988” number for the suicide-prevention hotline. Phone companies have until July 2022 to implement the 988 number for both calling and texting. “Texting to 988 is a huge step forward in improving how you address mental health,” said Hannah Wesolowski, interim national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. “Text messaging is a central part of how people communicate and for many individuals the primary way they communicate.” She said that that demand for the hotline “is going to skyrocket” next year when the 988 system is fully in place and people actually know about it, and that resources are going to have to increase as well so that people’s calls and texts are answered.
The FCC unanimously voted to require text messages sent to the number 988 be routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022. Not only is texting a very familiar form of communication for most people, texting to reach 988 also will help individuals who for safety reasons need to access the hotline in a more confidential manner, according to Hannah Wesolowski, interim national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. For example, texting the suicide prevention hotline could help an individual who is having suicidal ideation, or an individual who identifies as LGBTQ and is living in a household where they don't feel comfortable speaking about their sexuality, Wesolowski told CNN.
With the pandemic exacerbating the nation's mental health crisis, the FCC voted to expand access to 988, mental health and suicide crisis number, to include texting as well as calling. "We know that not everyone may be able to make a phone call or be comfortable making a phone call. The ability to text 988 makes it easier for more people to easily access help during a mental health crisis," said Hannah Wesolowski, interim national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. "We applaud the FCC’s decision to require telecommunication providers support text messaging to 988," Wesolowski said. "This option will support at-risk communities, including youth and young adults, marginalized and underserved populations, and individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, or have speech disabilities."
A federal move to promote texting the national suicide hotline for help could strain crisis center capacity. Texting can make reaching help more accessible for vulnerable communities, including young people and members of the LGBTQ community, but many insist the system will need more resources. "We don't want somebody to text and not get a response," said Hannah Wesolowski, interim national director of government relations, policy and advocacy for NAMI. "That is something that will really need to be scaled up." "[W]e know people are going to start texting as soon as they learn about 988. So it's important that we start offering it, and work simultaneously to make sure that that capacity need is addressed." A recent NAMI/Ipsos poll found that 4 in 5 Americans believe mental health professionals should be the primary first responders in a mental health crisis, rather than law enforcement. "Unfortunately, very few communities have robust crisis services in place and that leads to law enforcement often being the only in-person response available," Wesolowski told Axios. "And this causes a lot of avoidable trauma and tragedy."
The FCC voted unanimously to expand access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by letting people text 988 starting next year. Text message providers have to support the three-digit code by July 16th, 2022, which is when the code will go into effect. “With today’s decision to require providers to support text messaging to 988, the FCC has created a new vehicle for people to access help,” Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI said in a statement. “The ability to text 988 will support at-risk communities, including youth and young adults, marginalized and underserved populations, and individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.”
A wide majority of Americans say mental health professionals, rather than law enforcement, should be the primary first responders to mental health crises, a poll released Monday found. Nearly 80% of respondents said mental health professionals, not police, should respond to mental health and suicide situations. NAMI CEO Daniel Gillison Jr. said “lives will be saved” if the country shifts to prioritize professional response to these crises. “This survey shows that we have an opportunity, and broad desire, to provide better mental health crisis care and reduce our dependence on law enforcement to respond to mental health crises,” he said in a statement. Hannah Wesolowski, NAMI’s interim director of government relations, policy and advocacy, said the development of the 988 crisis line presents an “unprecedented opportunity” to improve access to mental health services in emergencies. “It's really on all of us, the public policy makers, to act to make sure that when somebody calls for help, there's actually care available on the other end of the line, and we're not just providing an easier number to access a law enforcement response," she said.
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