By Lyn Morris
As a mental health provider on the frontlines of care for more than 80 years, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services witnesses the lack of mental health parity every day – it shows up in our clinics and intake meetings on the faces of exhausted parents, teens and adults seeking mental health care. Our society has a moral responsibility to provide whole person care and treat mental health no differently than physical health, especially to individuals in crisis who need it most.
We are grateful for the leadership of the Biden Administration’s new rules that seek to strengthen the historic Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) of 1996 and the subsequent Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008. These new rules will hold insurers accountable to their responsibilities to patients and improve health outcomes for individuals in communities across the country by increasing access to care.
With mental health challenges and substance use on the rise across the U.S., it’s our communities who suffer when parity laws are not enforced. As a result, overcrowded emergency departments are used as temporary holding spaces; individuals experiencing addiction are often forced to sleep on the street instead of in a safe treatment facility; and loved ones of an individual experiencing a mental health crisis often call 911 because they don’t know where else to turn. These costly interventions can occur when an individual has reached the crisis stage because they could not access substance use and mental health care earlier.
We are also grateful for the additional investment the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will receive to enhance crisis response under these parity enhancements. Didi Hirsch is home to the first crisis hotline in the country and has been a national leader in suicide prevention for decades. As the lead crisis agency for implementing the 988 Lifeline in California, Didi Hirsch staff and volunteers connect with thousands of individuals every year who contact 988 for help. This investment will be critical to further strengthening the continuum of care so that help-seekers can access the resources needed to recover and heal.
Timely access to care for mental health conditions and substance use disorders is at the core of Didi Hirsch’s mission. We believe that access to quality, compassionate and affordable care should never be dependent upon ZIP Code or insurance status. It has been a great failure of the healthcare system that mental health services have remained inaccessible for too many.
And yet, there is more hope today. The Biden Administration’s new rules will undoubtedly begin to right these failures and usher in a sea change that is needed toward treating mental health care equally to physical health care.
Lyn Morris, LMFT, is the CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services