Franklin James Cook

SPNAC: APA Principles Are a Guide for Mental Health Advocates

In Advocacy, Mental Illness on March 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Former Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, left, talks with Dr. John Wernert, board chairman of the American Psychiatric Association Political Action Committee, during the 2009 Advocacy Day. (Photo for APA by Maureen Keating)

Former Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, left, talks with Dr. John Wernert, board chairman of the APA Political Action Committee, during Advocacy Day. (Photo for APA by Maureen Keating)

ORIGINAL STORY — In a story for Psychiatric News, reporter Rich Daly explains one of the goals of members of the American Psychiatric Association when they met with members of Congress last month during the APA’s 2009 Advocacy Day.

The enactment of mental health parity and the reduction of the Medicare copay for outpatient mental health services to 20 percent were major accomplishments this past year, and APA leaders are urging Congress and the Obama administration to ensure that psychiatric care is covered on an equal basis with other types of care under any proposals to reform health care.

The article references the APA’s “Principles for Health Care Reform for Psychiatry — Position Statement,” which is an excellent guideline for all mental health advocates to use as we watch over the reshaping of America’s health care system and make sure that creating a sound mental health care system in the nation is a priority. Here are the APA principles:

1. Every American with psychiatric symptoms has the right to a comprehensive evaluation and an accurate diagnosis which leads to an appropriate, individualized plan of treatment.

2. Psychiatric treatment should be based on continuous healing relationships and engagement with the whole person rather than the narrow symptom-focused perspective.

3. Timely access to psychiatric care and continuity of care are the cornerstones for quality, even as a continuum of medical and non-medical services becomes available that would encourage maximum independence and quality of life for psychiatric patients.

4. There must be full parity of psychiatric treatment with the rest of medicine and utilization management must be the same for people with mental illness and well as for other medical illnesses. Payment and utilization should be on the basis of treatment and services and not on diagnosis.

5. Psychiatric care should be patient and family centered, community based, culturally sensitive, readily available for patients of all ages, with particular attention to the specialized needs of children, adolescents, and the elderly. Disparities in the access to care for ethnic and racial minorities must be addressed.

6. Access to psychiatric care should be provided in numerous settings, including private offices, community mental health centers, specialty clinics, and hospitals as well as in the workplace, schools, and correctional facilities. Psychiatric care should be fully integrated with the rest of medicine in primary care settings and in hospitals.

7. Patients deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. When they are clinically able, they are entitled to choose their physician and other providers and make other decisions regarding their care. When they are incapable of doing so, they should receive the treatment they need and when able, they should choose future care.

8. As medical information enters the electronic age, leading to increased efficiency and ease of access to health data on all individuals, the confidentiality of this data must have the highest priority.

9. Patients should receive care in the least restrictive setting possible that encourages maximum
independence and access to a continuum of clinical services.

10. Psychiatric care should be fully integrated with the treatment of substance use disorders.

11. Psychiatric care should have an emphasis on early recognition and treatment as well as prevention. Research into the etiology and prevention of mental illness and into the ongoing development of safe and effective treatment interventions must be supported.

12. Efforts must be intensified to combat and overcome the stigma historically associated with mental illness and its treatments through enhanced public understanding and awareness of mental disorders and the effectiveness of psychiatric treatment.

13. More resources should be devoted to the training for an adequate supply of psychiatrists, especially child psychiatrists, to meet the current and future needs of the population.

* Prepared by the Board AD HOC Work Group on a Mental Health Care System. Approved by the Assembly, November 2008. Approved by the Board of Trustees, December 2008. “Policy documents are approved by the APA Assembly and Board of Trustees … These are … position statements that define APA official policy on specific subjects” (APA Operations Manual).

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