January 24, 2013

Importance of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing and Mental Health Care Highlighted by APNA President-Elect Susie Adams on National Call with HHS

Susie Adams
President-Elect Susie Adams

Yesterday, on a national call for nurses organized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) President-Elect Susie Adams emphasized the important part that psychiatric-mental health nurses play in the delivery of holistic health care. Hosted by HHS Secretary Sebelius and HRSA Administrator Dr. Mary Wakefield, Adams was one of five speakers who spoke to participants from across the country, including a number of APNA members. The call served to highlight the importance of nurses in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

On the call, Adams spoke to the critical role that psychiatric-mental health (PMH) nurses play in the delivery of mental health care and the implementation of the ACA.  “Psychiatric nurses are a critical part of the mental health workforce with a holistic approach to patient care,” she said. “By educating individuals and families about the ACA and resources to explore enrollment options, we can help people secure insurance coverage to access care.”

Adams explained how, as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (NP), she sees firsthand how the implementation of the ACA and Mental Health and Substance Use Parity Act are affecting access to mental health and primary care services across the lifespan. ACA Navigators, she noted, have been extremely important in assisting persons with serious mental illness throughout the Health Insurance Portal enrollment process. “Linking someone with a serious mental illness, such as an individual with schizophrenia or someone in a severe episode of depression with suicidal ideation, with an ACA Navigator who walks them through the application process is an invaluable resource,” she said.

Citing the fact that one in four persons in the United States have a diagnosable mental illness and that about one in seventeen adults have a serious mental illness, Adams also emphasized the importance of ensuring access to health care that addresses the whole person. Persons with serious mental illness also frequently have multiple co-morbidities, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and COPD, which often go untreated. She expressed the hope that the implementation of the ACA will continue to drive models of integrated care and that in the long-term, gaps in coverage of and access to mental health and primary care will be addressed.

“We’re seeing some exciting initiatives in our community mental health centers (CMHCs) where primary care services are being offered onsite with the goal of soon having integrated electronic health records,” she remarked. “Conversely, we’re seeing CMHCs reaching out to pediatricians and primary care practices to offer onsite mental health evaluations and services.  This outreach effort is intended to increase access to care, decrease stigma, and provide early intervention to avert the progression of mental health problems – especially for children and adolescents.”

Affordable Care Act Resources

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