The Public Mental Health System is better than the Private Mental Health System.
One of the rally points for people opposed to health care reform is saying that public health care would be worse and our current health care system is actually one of the best. This is refuted in this article from the University of Maine, with extensive references that point out that we pay more than other high income countries yet still have lower outcomes. My experience as a Certified Peer Specialist is that the public mental health system in this country is more modern, more complete, more accessible, and more humane that mental health care provided by insurance companies.
Patricia Larson, Manager of Behavioral Health Services at the Kansas City Free Health Clinic, says, “The current standard of care for a person with mental illness is a psychiatrist, a therapist, and a case manager.” Case management services are one of the many things not available with private insurance. Most people who need case management services get the help through their local publicly funded community mental health center. Many mental health centers also provide employment services, which are extremely helpful to people seeking to find meaning through employment. Many mental health centers provide day treatment programs. Although I’m not convinced as to the effectiveness of these programs, they are certainly not available to people solely using a private insurace.
Consumer run organizations are places where people with mental illness can socialize, learn skills, and help each other with recovery. A study of these programs found that the more people use the services of these programs, the more increase in wellness they will have. These programs are almost entirely public funded. They are open to the public, but very few insurance companies have ever contributed to the support of these programs.
Finally, peer support provided by Certified Peer Specialists is now Medicaid billable in somewhere around 20 states. Many success stories for states and individuals are provided in this downloadable file from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. This academic review by Larry Davidson, Ph.D. from Yale in Schizophrenia Bulletin says that peer support is at least as effective as services provided by traditional providers. Peer support is not available at all to people using privately funded mental health care.
Pretty much all that is available through the private mental health system is meds and therapy. If meds were all it took to recover from mental illness, everyone in the U.S. would be recovered. Recovery takes hard work and a whole range of choices to help people move forward to a life of their own choosing. According to Pat Deegan, a person who has recovered from schizophrenia and now does academic research, “Medications can open the door to recovery, but it takes a person with courage to step through the door into recovery.” Right now the public mental health system in the U.S. is leading the way with more thorough, more current, and more evidence care than the private system. Better hope you don’t have insurance if you need mental health care in the U.S.