Too often people are confused and believe “behavioral health” means that people with an addiction and/or mental illness are acting badly or misbehaving; many people don’t understand that addiction and mental illness are diseases, just like cancer or diabetes. While cancer and diabetes are diseases of the body, mental illness and addiction are diseases of the brain caused by chemical imbalances or genetics. These diseases often affect how individuals think and behave. They disrupt their day-to-day lives, and in extreme instances individuals with untreated mental illness and/or addiction can harm themselves or others. Often times because of prejudice or lack of education behavioral health is not included in everyday health care.
While federal health care reform will make certain medical treatments accessible to most Ohioans by 2014, two facts should be understood: 1) there will still be a small percentage of the working poor who will not be able to afford health insurance coverage, and 2) it will not pay for supportive services to live in the community- services like housing and education or a drop-in center for peer support.
We ask you to stand up and help advocate for individuals who must live with these diseases. Not just for those that live with mental illness or addiction diseases, but for the families, communities, and organizations that work and plan to ensure that Ohioans with mental illness and/or addiction have a lasting safety net that leads to recovery. Advocates for behavioral health care services can be found in children’s services, health care, faith-based organizations, criminal justice, clinics, hospitals, social workers, pharmacists, doctors, consumer organizations, local behavioral health boards, and many other places. Join the effort to ensure that behavioral health care is recognized as health care.