ACA Signs Historic Mental Health 7-Pillar Roadmap to Stem Crisis in Mental Health and Substance Use Care

Feb 25, 2021
Roadmap for Recovery Includes Focus on Early Intervention, Emergency Crisis Response, Leveling of Racial and Economic Inequalities in Health Care, Parity in Payment by Health Insurance Plans, Among Other Core Issues

An unprecedented collaboration of mental health and substance use disorder organizations today announced support from 35 additional entities, each signing onto the collaboration’s Unified Vision, a 7-pillar roadmap developed to address the future of mental health and substance use care in America.  

Founded in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the collaboration is the only group of its kind that includes collaboration by the chief executives of the nation’s premier mental health and substance use disorder care organizations, all working in unprecedented unity to advance core issues in the United States.

“The American Counseling Association is pleased to lend our name to this critical effort. Our 52,000 professional counselors work with millions of children, adolescents, adults, couples, families, and communities each and every day. ACA joins with the other major mental health advocacy organizations because we are at a critical moment in our society and world,” said Richard Yep, CEO, ACA.  “We know real change happens with focus and commitment.  The need for action has never been more pressing, which is why we proudly stand with our colleagues in support of realizing a more compassionate, supportive, and fully resourced mental health service delivery system.” 

In December, the collaboration released its Unified Vision, a key series of action items intended to prompt and establish policy, programs and standards that prioritize mental health and substance use care and address the social and economic conditions – including racism and discrimination – that disproportionately impact people of color and people whose incomes are below the federal poverty threshold, and result in inadequate and inequitable access to effective, humane treatment.

In welcoming the American Counseling Association as the newest signatory to the Unified Vision statement, co-convener of the group that drove the roadmap Tyler Norris from Well Being Trust said: “Accomplishing real, substantive change to our country’s mental health care system is a significant undertaking, one that will require collaboration and coordination from all involved in the sector. No one person or organization can do it alone, and the collaboration is looking to prompt discussion and forge partnerships that will ultimately transform the future of mental health care in the United States. We welcome this critical show of support for our mission from our most recent signees.”

Founding members of the collaboration and creators of the Unified Vision are the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Mental Health America, the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Behavioral Health, One Mind, Peg’s Foundation, the Steinberg Institute, The Kennedy Forum, the Treatment Advocacy Center and Well Being Trust

Since the onset of the pandemic, prevalence of depression symptoms have jumped three-fold, overdose deaths have increased in 40 states, and the CDC reports that 25 percent of young adults struggle with suicidal ideation. Just as the public health care system was unprepared for a pandemic, an unprecedented mental health and substance use crisis afflicting half of all Americans has overwhelmed the mental health and substance use care systems.

The Unified Vision offers tried-and-tested “pathways for success” across seven critical policy areas identified as:

  1. Early identification and prevention, especially for families and young people;
  2. Rapid deployment of emergency crisis response and suicide prevention;
  3. Leveling inequities in access to care;
  4. Establishing integrated health and mental health care to ensure “whole-person” well-being;
  5. Achieving parity in payment by health plans for mental health and substance-use coverage;
  6. Assuring evidence-based standards of treatments and care; and,
  7. Engaging a diverse mental health care workforce, peer support and community-based programs.

Included in the vision is a detailed proposal for how the new Administration, Congress, Governors and state and local lawmakers must work in tandem with the business community and the non-profit sector to promote systemic changes in the mental health and substance-use care system.

Among the seven suggestions are a number of ideas that can be implemented quickly, such as, embracing telehealth, and implementing strategic shifts to early intervention that can help provide relief by bringing telehealth outside of clinical settingsand into schools, community centers, prisons; fast-tracking new emergency response systems, such as the new “988” National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for immediate access on mobile carriers; and, engaging a diverse mental health and substance-use care workforce, providing additional support means by expanding access to peer support groups and community based programs.


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