Making Health Care Better: Mental Health, Substance Abuse

Office of National Drug Control Policy

Making Health Care Better Series on Substance Use Disorders

On Tuesday, November 29th at 8:30am EST, the White House hosted the final event in “Making Health Care Better Series on Substance Use Disorders.” The event was streamed live starting at 8:30am EST at

The “Making Health Care Better” series highlights the significant progress made in improving the health system over the past eight years. This event focused on the advancements in recovery, prevention, and access to treatment as it relates to substance use disorders. Updates will be given on progress of implementation of the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy.

“The 2010 National Drug Control Strategy is a blueprint for reducing illicit drug use and its harmful consequences in America. I am committed to restoring balance in our efforts to combat the drug problems that plague our communities. While I remain steadfast in my commitment to continue our strong enforcement efforts, especially along the southwest border, I directed the Office of National Drug Control Policy to reengage in efforts to prevent drug use and addiction and to make treatment available for those who seek recovery.

This new, balanced approach will expand efforts for the three critical ways that we can address the drug problem: prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.” From 2010 National Drug Control Strategy

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force

In March 2016, President Obama established the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force and charged Federal Departments and Agencies to work together to ensure that Americans are benefiting from the mental health and substance use disorder parity protections under the law.

Learn more about the Task Force by reading President Obama’s announcement and the White House blog post and the Strengthen Insurance Coverage for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders fact sheet.

Mental Health Parity

Parity aims to eliminate restrictions on mental health and substance use health coverage – like annual visit limits, higher co-payments, or different rules on how care is managed. Mental health coverage often requires frequent pre-authorization requirements or medical necessity reviews.

White House Report:
Making Health Care Better Addressing Mental Health:
Progress in Research, Prevention, Coverage, Recovery and Quality

Health Care in America: Making Progress for People with Mental Health Conditions

Mental Illness in America

The Making Health Care Better Final Report states:

“Millions of American households are touched by mental illnesses.

In 2014, nearly 1 in 5 or roughly 43 million American adults had a diagnosable mental health disorder over the past year, and nearly 10 million American adults experienced serious functional impairment due to a mental health disorder, such as a psychotic or serious mood or anxiety disorder.

Mental disorders can disrupt families and careers and even lead to death; suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 41,000 deaths per year. Untreated behavioral health conditions have serious effects on individuals’ lives.

Financial, Health and Personal Impact of Untreated Mental Disorders

People with mental disorders are more likely to be absent from work, lose jobs, experience the breakup of their families, and be unstably housed.

Mental disorders also complicate the care of chronic health conditions. For example, co-occurring psychiatric conditions and chronic medical conditions are associated with significantly more expensive care due in large part to poor self-care and more acute episodes of needed health care.

Shorter Life Expectancy for Untreated Mental Illness

Together, these circumstances serve to explain the fact that people with serious mental illness have an average life expectancy that is shorter than for similar people without these conditions.

The nearly 10 million adults with serious mental illness face the most significant challenges in accessing and using quality care. They are among the heaviest users of public health and income support programs and of health services.

Adults with serious mental illness are more than three times more likely than those without serious mental illness to be on Medicaid and significantly more likely to qualify for Medicare before age 65.

In addition, they are highly likely to rely on Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, are heavy emergency room users, and frequently have serious co-morbid health conditions.”

Federal Parity Task Force Takes Steps to Strengthen Insurance Coverage for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) is a federal law that generally prevents group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than on medical/surgical benefits.

Read the entire Fact Sheet

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