This is truly a historic time in the United States. Mental Health Parity continues to remain a primary agenda for the growth and development of an evolving health care system. In this month’s Psychiatric News, we look back fifty years ago, when President John F. Kennedy signed into legislation the Community Mental Health Act of 1963. At that time, individuals suffering from mental illness were limited in their ability to obtain adequate intervention, stigmatized and shunned in the community, and those with chronic disabilities were typically institutionalized.
Mental health care had become compartmentalized and seemingly separated from the general medical community. With ongoing advances in mental health research, our understanding of illness has led to remarkable progress in treatment strategies. The positive impact of treatment has greatly improved the quality of life for suffering individuals, as well as their loved ones. Social awareness has shaped our communities, creating more cohesiveness in how we understand the world around us and its impact on our lives day-to-day. There remain too many individuals who get lost in a health care system that has consistently discriminated against ones right to expect and obtain adequate mental health care. The parity laws in effect are an attempt to rectify this. In conjunction with the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, the parity rule will result in the largest expansion of behavioral health care to date. President Kennedy set in motion a plan to return mental health care to the mainstream of American Medicine, to ensure quality in mental health care, and equality in treatment.