Health care reform is a big deal on people’s minds lately. Whether someone is in favor of the new laws or not, decisions that are made now may impact people with substance abuse or mental health disorders for years to come.
Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
Mental health and substance abuse often go hand in hand. Which one comes first does not really matter; the fact is that people with either or both of these disorders may be trying to function in society with a biologically altered brain. Many substance-abusing addicts, as well as people with mental health disorders, find themselves struggling to get by. Some lose their jobs, others lose their families, still others lose everything, including the roof over their head. Many people are looking for ways to help people get the necessary treatment they need if they are going to have any hope of straightening their lives out.
Health Care Reform
Perhaps it is for these people that many legislators are working so hard at reforming health care. After all, if we are willing to provide someone with life-changing treatment, the expectation is that the person will go on to lead a productive, self-sustaining life.
The Affordable Care Act, originally signed into law in March of 2010, is aimed at helping people who do not have access to health care or are not getting the coverage they need. Some people who will benefit from the Affordable Care Act are those suffering from substance abuse or mental health problems that do not qualify for Medicaid or other forms of help. The Act allows all low-income individuals to get Medicaid, not just those with children. The Act also would allow individuals access to insurance who have previously been locked out due to a pre-existing condition.
Getting Help to Those Who Need It
People on either side of the controversial health care reform can argue all day whether or not the Affordable Care Act enables those who choose to be taken care of by others, or whether we have the money for this or not. For those who are in need of help because of a substance abuse problem or a mental health disorder, the plan may be very beneficial. We know that treatment and recovery are the most important things for these individuals to work toward. According to the latest data from SAMHSA, less than 10 percent of people with substance use disorders receive treatment, at a societal cost of over $300 billion annually. (1) But if we are able to offer help to these people and provide them with the hope of recovery, we can not only save money in the long run, but help save lives as well.
We can accuse and blame people for why they have a drug, alcohol, or mental health problem, but that won’t really do much good. We need to help people get into treatment so that they can recover and get back on their feet. Only then will the dependence on others end so that they can contribute positively to society.