We know the vast majority of Americans with serious mental illness are not violent—and we know that so many of them face daily challenges, small tragedies that never make the news, because of shortcomings in our policies and our healthcare system. … I am hopeful that we will look back on this administration as a turning point in how America treats serious mental illness.
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Dr. [Elinore] McCance-Katz, for that introduction. Good morning everyone, and welcome to HHS.
We are proud to be hosting the third meeting of the ISMICC here today. I’m grateful to our non-federal members and to our partners from other federal agencies for joining us.
This committee has been a model for intergovernmental and external cooperation. That is a credit to Dr. McCance-Katz’s leadership, to all of you, and to so many others across eight federal departments and divisions who have worked diligently on the committee’s efforts so far.
The committee’s efforts are vital because our healthcare system is, simply, failing Americans with serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbance.
Remember what we’ve called the 10-10-10 problem: 10 million Americans live with serious mental illness in any given year; their lives are 10 years, or more, shorter than other Americans; and by one estimate, 10 times as many of them are in jails as are receiving inpatient psychiatric treatment.
There are many reasons for that stark gap in life expectancy. One is that suicide is vastly more common among people with serious mental illness than it is among Americans at large.
By one estimate, 1 in 25 Americans with SMI will, tragically, die by suicide.
There are signs that the broader challenge of suicide is growing: A new Vital Signs report from CDC this week found rates of suicide rising in nearly every state.
But there are many physical health challenges faced by Americans with serious mental illness, as well: much worse heart disease and cancer outcomes, for instance. Together, this adds up to what a recent article in the New York Times called “the largest health disparity we don’t talk about.”
But all of you are talking about this discrepancy, and so are all of us at HHS. Thankfully, this committee is doing a lot more than talking.
The non-federal members of this committee have put forth dozens of opportunities for action within five areas, and I have been told that there is now vigorous research and fact-finding going on in work groups regarding specific priority recommendations.
This committee’s work has a five-year time horizon, but we believe real action cannot come soon enough.
At HHS, Dr. McCance-Katz is leading not just this effort, but broader efforts to understand how we can do a better job of ensuring Americans with serious mental illness receive the treatment they need.
The President’s 2019 Budget, for instance, funds two approaches that have success in promoting adherence to treatment, Assisted Outpatient Treatment and Assertive Community Treatment.
We can also improve our work to educate teachers, families and first responders about serious mental illness, and help communities better support those struggling with it. That may mean engaging faith-based and community organizations, for instance.
We also want to look at re-invigorating research in this area, through FDA and NIH: We have effective treatments, but many of them are decades-old.
There are also legal issues to consider, like how federal privacy laws may be impeding family members who are trying to secure treatment for their families.
I am heartened by ISMICC’s ongoing attention to these kinds of issues and by the dedication all of you will bring to seeing them through to action.
Sadly, the challenge of mental illness often only breaks into the mainstream when there is a tragedy, including acts of violence that can be associated with untreated serious mental illness.
We know the vast majority of Americans with serious mental illness are not violent—and we know that so many of them face daily challenges, small tragedies that never make the news, because of shortcomings in our policies and our healthcare system.
HHS is proud to be hosting this effort to help address these challenges. I wish you all the best in your work today and in the months and years to come.
I am hopeful that we will look back on this administration as a turning point in how America treats serious mental illness.
We have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do, but together, we will build a better system.
Thank you, and have a great rest of the day here today.