2014 was a very important year in the field of behavioral health care. In January, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented, giving all Americans access to affordable health insurance options. The ACA expanded access to mental health services for 62 million Americans who were unable to access these important services before, making it the most monumental legislation involving behavioral health care since John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act in 1963. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) received a $144 million increase in federal funding, which meant more support for Primary Behavioral Heath Care Integration (PBHCI) and evidence based programs, among other things. In April 2014, President Barack Obama signed The Excellence in Mental Health Act into law. This legislation will establish pilot Certified Community Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC) programs in eight states and will increase access to community mental health and will create models for the standard of care at behavioral health centers across the nation. And, in July, the final rules for The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) were implemented. The law now requires “group health plans and health insurance issuers to ensure that financial requirements (such as co-pays, deductibles) and treatment limitations (such as visit limits) applicable to mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant requirements or limitations applied to substantially all medical/surgical benefits1.” This final ruling demonstrates that our federal government views behavioral health care services as an essential health benefit.
In 1990 the U.S. Congress designated the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week in recognition of the effort of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to educate and increase awareness about mental illness. Since its inception, Mental Illness Awareness Week has been a time for mental health advocates to join together and promote community outreach and advocate for recovery from serious mental illness.
On July 22, 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed SB 26 into law as Public Act 98-0104. This law implements the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Illinois by expanding Medicaid to individuals whose income is at or below 138% of the Federal poverty level. This expansion will result in the largest increase in mental health funding in the state since the enactment of Medicaid decades ago1.