Lindsey Boylan’s Plan To
“For me, this is personal. I grew up in a family that has struggled with addiction, and I’ve lost loved ones to suicide. We don’t have a mental health system in this country. We have a patchwork of resources for those who can afford it and little comfort for the rest. Our country’s mental health epidemic is at the heart of why I’m running for Congress — countless lives and unlimited potential are lost because of our malfunctioning, ineffective health care system.”
- Lindsey Boylan, Democratic Candidate for Congress, NY-10
While mental health parity is mandated under current law to have coverage equal to physical health in insurance plans, it is important to recognize that “equal coverage” is not necessarily good coverage.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people with all kinds of insurance continue to experience significant barriers to finding affordable, accessible mental health care. These barriers have real life consequences.
The statistics are stark:
● Adults with mental health conditions are unemployed at dramatically higher rates
● High school students with mental health conditions are twice as likely to drop out
● Almost a quarter of people experiencing homelessness have a mental health condition
● Over a third of adults in prison have a diagnosed mental health condition
Mental health is health
Not only do stigma and misconceptions about mental health conditions prevent many people from seeking help, but the entire systemintended to treat mental healthdoesn’t work. Public services are hard to navigate and are underfunded, while private mental health care is too expensive due to out-of-pocket costs and lack of providers in health plan networks.
First and foremost, Ms. Boylan proposes that as part of Medicare for All, we truly enact mental health parity: Ensure mental health services are covered equally to physical health — with a yearly mental health check-up, just like we have for physical health. This means no more games by insurance companies to get out of covering mental health services through high co-pays and denials of needed services. We must also simplify access to services through public programs and ensure Medicare covers all mental health services. Boylan, who is trained in Mental Health First Aid, would like to expand the training so that is as common practice as standard First Aid.
She also supports efforts for a public service campaign to combat the stigma against mental health conditions, encouraging people to seek the help they need and addressing the discrimination against people who seek help.
And, Boylan advocates for funding research to treat mental health conditions that we see more and more: PTSD experienced by our veterans; postpartum depression endured by new parents; alarming suicide rates among black youth and LGBTQIA youth; and the unintended, often opposite, and still unknown effects when treating children with adult medications.
Children need early intervention
Most people living with a mental health condition start to experience symptoms early in life: approximately 50 percent of lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14. Yet the average delay between the onset of symptoms and treatment is 11 years. Only about 20 percent of children with mental, emotional or behavioral disorders receive the care they need from a specialized healthcare provider. Undiagnosed or untreated mental health conditions can affect a young person’s ability to learn, grow, and develop. Early identification and treatment leads to better outcomes, may lessen long-term disability, and prevents years of suffering.
Boylan calls for a systematic change, starting in elementary school, to ensure all students have access to the mental health services they need. She proposes federal funding be extended to establish comprehensive school-based mental health services and develop service links to family support systems that help families care for children with mental health needs.
Under Boylan’s plan, funding would also extend through to higher education. Currently, students wait almost a month for an initial college mental health counseling appointment and then wait even longer for subsequent sessions. Young adults should have access to medical leave and other services, just like students who experience physical health issues.
All children and young adults, regardless of their mental health status, should have the same opportunities to learn, grow, and succeed.
Mental health conditions and addiction are not crimes
We cannot fix the criminal justice system without fixing the mental health system. Investing in mental health services is core to reducing incarceration rates. It is estimated that more than half of inmates have, or have had, mental health conditions. In a mental health crisis, people are more likely to encounter police than get medical help. This stems from the lack of basic mental health services that people need to prevent a crisis, making law enforcement the default mental crisis center and requiring police to deal with issues often outside their training and expertise. Asking our law enforcement to address mental crises perpetuates a vicious cycle that ends in prison, not treatment.
Boylan proposes a mandatory federal program to ensure 911 systems have fully funded mental health professionals to respond to emergency calls involving mental crises. Further, she would introduce legislation to expand mental health services that prevent crises from happening in the first place.
“Our communities can’t wait. Mental struggles are a part of everyday life. There is nothing strange about it. The only thing that’s strange is how our government has chosen to ignore the epidemic. We need to break the stigma and get to work.” -Lindsey Boylan, Democratic Candidate for Congress, NY-10
Watch Lindsey’s video addressing mental health.
Originally published December, 2019
For more information, please visit lindseyboylan.com.