I often joke that I’ve had surgery from my nose to my toes. When I broke my leg over Christmas last year, I went to the surgeon and got it set back in place and wore a boot for a few months.
I knew the leg was broken. I knew I needed to go to the doctor to fix it. I knew it would heal.
Not all fixes in our healthcare system are as straightforward as a broken leg. Serving in Congress has put me right in the middle of one of our nation’s biggest debates: how to treat patients with mental health and substance use disorders.
We as a nation are not doing enough. As a society, we have no problem recognizing and treating broken legs, cuts and bruises, and taking sick days for a cold. Rarely is a mental health disorder recognized, and even rarer is full treatment for it insured.
I’ve introduced a number of bills to help provide additional help for patients struggling with mental health issues.
My bill, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, decreases stigmatization and increases care for patients struggling with substance use disorder by modernizing laws so a physician can fully know their patient’s healthcare record.
Jessie Grubb, who was recovering from an opioid addiction, was sent home with a bottle of 50 oxycodone pills. But a regulation known as 42 CFR Part 2 created a barrier between her and her doctor. Jessie’s doctor didn’t know her medical history, and the bureaucratic firewalls contributed to her death. My bill would change that.
In many cases, we don’t even reimburse for a psychologist to visit with Medicare patients. Most older Americans do not have access to a mental health specialist and are treated by primary care physicians. Only 40-50 percent of these patients are referred and treated.
Instead our elderly are given a prescription and sent home to deal with their mental health struggles alone. If there is one thing the opioid crisis has taught us, it’s that pills are not the silver bullet.
My bill, the Medicare Mental Health Access Act, will ensure that our seniors have access to psychologists so that they can receive comprehensive mental health care.
On Monday, April 1, a critical Oklahoma demonstration that helps patients with mental health and addiction programs expired.
My bill, the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act, would renew this program and extend a demonstration program in Oklahoma that provides mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Grand Lake Mental Health Center, which is a part of the demonstration, has seen a 95 percent reduction in inpatient psychiatric admissions in its 7-county service area.
In 2015, before the program began, there were 1,115 inpatient psychiatric admissions in the Grand Lake Mental Health Center service area. In 2018, there were only 15.
A short term extension of the program passed the House and Senate last week and will be signed by the President shortly.
Nearly 40 million American adults have untreated substance use disorders or mental health conditions. According to a national survey, many of these patients don't think they need to get care.
The first thing we need to do to help these patients is to start recognizing it. If you have a broken leg, you go to the doctor. The doctor fixes it. You let it heal. Let’s start fixing mental health.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701