We cannot be content with a system that is inadequate to the needs of many of the 10 million Americans with serious mental illness… With the ongoing work of this committee, we can take a step toward a future where our country is healing, and helping, these 10 million Americans and their families.
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you for that introduction, Assistant Secretary [Elinore McCance-Katz].
I’d like to thank you and your team at SAMHSA for all the hard work it took to stand up this committee, to coordinate this first-of-its-kind report, and to put on this event to let the nation know about this important undertaking.
I also want to thank the committee members, for their hard work in delving into these issues and putting together this report.
Early on in the Trump Administration, serious mental illness was identified as one of our top priorities – demonstrating the President’s commitment and that of his administration to address the challenge of serious mental illness.
This is an issue where our healthcare and human service systems haven’t produced the results we need, and an issue where we can take action to make a real difference for the health of millions of Americans.
In his remarks to launch the very first meeting of the ISMICC [Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee], Secretary [Tom] Price laid out the serious challenge we face, and the inadequacy of our system, with three numbers: 10 million, 10 years, and 10 times.
There are about 10 million Americans, according to our latest numbers, who live with a serious mental illness, meaning one that seriously impairs one or more major life activities, like holding down a job or maintaining relationships.
They live, on average, lives 10 years shorter than other Americans, which is such a tragic outcome for illnesses that we know how to treat.
And 10 times as many Americans with serious mental illness are in prison – about 350,000 of them – as are in inpatient psychiatric treatment. This represents such inadequacy in our healthcare system and in our policies.
These aren’t just numbers—these numbers represent Americans, and their families, who are suffering because of inadequate policies and an inadequate system.
But with the formation of the ISMICC, we have the first standing committee to address this topic that is required to report to Congress, and we have the chance to do a deep examination of how we can improve what we do on this issue.
Dr. McCance-Katz is the first psychiatrist to be appointed to run SAMHSA, and is the first assistant secretary for mental health and substance use.
Appointing her to chair this committee brings a new level of authority, experience and expertise to the challenge we face.
With this 2017 Report to Congress, the ISMICC has taken a hard look at where we are in this fight, and the non-federal members have made initial recommendations for pursuing change. We will use this report, our expertise here at the department, and the very best science we have, to look at ways to improve the policies and practices that are letting down so many millions of Americans.
This is a complicated challenge, so the report recommends strategies that go well beyond the parts of this department that have traditionally dealt with mental illness, and reaches across the federal government.
Already, we are working with our colleagues at the Department of Justice, because we need to ensure that people with serious mental illness are connected to treatment, not put behind bars. We’re also working with our colleagues at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, because too many people with serious mental illness end up living on the streets.
The Department of Labor is a critical partner, too, because finding work is an important piece of helping people with serious mental illness live healthy, independent lives.
The departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Education, as well as the Social Security Administration, have roles to play in achieving the goal this committee has, and that we have at HHS: building a system where Americans with serious mental illness, and their families, get the help they need.
We in the federal government cannot do this all on our own. Our work will be informed and strengthened by the participation of non-federal members of the ISMICC, including national experts on healthcare research, mental health providers, advocates, and people with serious mental illness and their families.
You will hear from some of these partners today. Their first-hand encounters with our mental health system and their work on the front lines—in their personal lives and from their professional experience—are invaluable.
Dr. McCance-Katz is going to talk more about the specific recommendations from the non-federal members of the ISMICC.
As she does, it will become abundantly clear that we have a huge challenge ahead of us, and needed change will not come easily or quickly.
Let’s go back to those 10-10-10 numbers: We cannot be content with a system that is inadequate to the needs of many of the 10 million Americans with serious mental illness, a system that fails to provide them lives as long and as full as the rest of us enjoy, and a system that imprisons them so much more often rather than heals them.
With the ongoing work of this committee, we can take a step toward a future where our country is healing, and helping, these 10 million Americans and their families.
Thank you for your attention to this effort, and I’ll now hand it back over to Dr. McCance-Katz.