Institute of Medicine news: Report on mental illnesses and drug addictions

WASHINGTON- Without a comprehensive strategy to improve the quality of health care for people with mental conditions and alcohol or drug problems, high-quality care in the nation's overall health system and better health for the public are goals that will remain unmet, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. The report offers such a strategy, outlining key roles for government officials, clinicians, health care organizations, health plans, and purchasers -- companies or other groups that compensate health care providers for delivering services to patients.

The diagnoses and severity of mental and substance problems vary widely -- from distress caused by a life-changing event to severe depression to physical dependence on alcohol. Each year more than 33 million Americans, many of whom are working adults, use health care services for such conditions. And research shows that successful, cost-effective treatments exist. However, as with general health care, the delivery of high-quality interventions can be spotty, and poor care has serious consequences: Mental health problems and alcohol and drug issues are leading risk factors for suicide. Furthermore, the consequences ripple throughout the U.S. education, legal, and welfare systems and the workplace in the forms of lost productivity, low academic achievement, and dysfunctional behavior.

"America will not have a high-quality health system if equal attention is not given to mental health issues and substance-use problems," said Mary Jane England, president, Regis College, Weston, Mass., and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "Mental health is inextricably linked with health and well-being, but treatment for mental conditions and inappropriate use of substances is often separated from other health care."

Health services for these conditions have been isolated not only from other components of the health system but also from each other, despit

Contact: Vanee Vines
The National Academies

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