KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Redesigning Mental Health Programs, Coverage And Care

States are grappling with mental health issues including a redesign of a program in Iowa, increased coverage for the mentally ill in California and a mental health first aid pilot program in Pennsylvania.

Des Moines Register: Mental-Health Redesign Bill Offers Big Ideas, But Money Remains A Question
Patient advocates were heartened by many provisions of a mental-health redesign bill draft released [Thursday] morning, but they were concerned by the measure's repeated use of this phrase: "Subject to the availability of funding." "That's huge, huge, huge," said Teresa Bomhoff, a Des Moines activist for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Bomhoff remains optimistic that legislators will make big improvements in Iowa's patchwork mental-health system. But the lack of a firm commitment to spend tens of millions of dollars on the effort worries her and others who work closely with the system (Leys, 1/26).

Associated Press/ San Francisco Chronicle
The state Assembly on Thursday passed a set of bills intended to broaden the mental health and health care services covered by private insurance plans. Lawmakers approved AB154, which would require insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, and AB171 for coverage of developmental disorders such as autism. They also approved legislation to cover oral chemotherapy treatments and mammograms regardless of age (Lin, 1/26).

KQED: Assembly Passes Bills Requiring Broader Health Coverage
The state Assembly today passed a set of bills aimed at broadening health care services covered by private insurance plans. The bills would require insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, and developmental disorders such as autism (1/26).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Pilot Training Launched To Administer Mental Health First Aid
A pilot training program begins Friday for an effort that city officials say will eventually put thousands of volunteers on the street, invisible but prepared. In much the same way, traditional first aid has provided an emergency safety net for decades. An estimated 26 percent of adults experience a mental disorder at some point, although the numbers for conditions that most people fear or do not understand are far lower. Schizophrenia afflicts about 1 percent, compared with 18 percent for an anxiety disorder and 7 percent for a major depressive disorder (Sapatkin, 1/26).

California Healthline: Court Agrees To New Mental Health Plan For Sacramento County
A federal district judge yesterday approved the final settlement of a lawsuit that challenged a plan by Sacramento County to restructure and downsize its mental health system. Yesterday's settlement means mental health services will remain at their current levels in the county — and, in fact, may even improve, given a number of proposals the county still hopes to adopt. The county hopes to save money by consolidating two county-operated clinics into one, according to Mary Ann Bennett, director of the county's Division of Mental Health (Gorn, 1/26).

Connecticut Mirror: State Pays High Price For Incarcerating Mentally Ill
Spurred by a new study showing the high costs of treating the mentally ill in prison, the Malloy administration is searching for ways to treat non-violent offenders outside the prison system. It costs Connecticut nearly double to both incarcerate and treat an offender with serious mental illnesses, compared the price of treatment alone, according to a new academic study that analyzed social service and correction trends in 2006 and 2007 (Phaneuf, 1/26).

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