Chicago Tribune Interviews Heyrman on Impact of ACA and Local Cuts on Mental Health Care

Mental health care offers easy target for budget ax
Bonnie Miller Rubin
Chicago Tribune
July 18, 2012

Health care has dominated the headlines recently at the federal, state and local levels:

The Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act. Six of 12 Chicago-run community mental health clinics are shut, as is the state-run Tinley Park Mental Health Center.

To help sort out what impact these developments will have on the emotional/behavioral health front, we turned to Mark Heyrman, a professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School and past president of Mental Health America of Illinois:

Q: What does the Affordable Care Act mean for Americans with psychiatric disorders?

A: It may be the most important piece of legislation affecting people with mental illness in decades because it provides insurance for millions who are uninsured due to prior existing conditions. With mental illness, the usual age of onset is teens or early 20s, which means it's impossible to get coverage once you have symptoms. ... The Affordable Care Act will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Also, the expansion of Medicaid will be a big boon because Medicaid is the largest funder of mental health services in Illinois and every other state.

Q: You are suing the state โ€” along with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Illinois and Mental Health America of Illinois โ€” to make sure the money from closing Tinley Park gets redirected to other mental health services. What kind of services would you like to see?

A: What is lacking is an array of low-cost, simple services โ€” medications, group therapy or periodic, individual therapy. ... For someone whose illness is in remission that is frequently all that's necessary to keep someone healthy. It could be put into supportive employment, so people can be gainfully employed and pay taxes. In Illinois, we simply have not done enough of that kind of thing.

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