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Will mental health insurance fall through the cracks?

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U.S. Capitol

By Kristen Fritz


On Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. to discuss how to improve access to mental health care insurance benefits. The meeting was in response to the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, focusing on how the United States could improve the handling of psychological problems that may lead to violence.


Pamela Hyde, the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), noted at the hearing that “most people who are violent do not have a mental disorder, and most people with a mental disorder are not violent.” She also stated that “demographic variables such as age, gender and socioeconomic status are more reliable predictors of violence than mental illness,” according the committee website. “These facts are important, because misconceptions about mental illness can cause discrimination,” she said.


According to Hyde, patients and their families now get 69 percent of the cash used to pay for mental health care from state and federal government programs, 12 percent from their own personal resources, and 27 percent from private insurance plans. One of the major laws governing private health insurance benefits for mental health care, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), affects insured and self-insured group health benefits. It does not require an employer to offer coverage for mental health or substance abuse disorders. The rules state that if an employer with 50 or more employees does offer mental health or substance abuse benefits, then the financial requirements and treatment limits for the behavioral health benefits can be no more restrictive than the typical requirements for benefits for other types of disorders.


Another law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), is set to require all non-grandfathered individual and small group plans to offer an “essential health benefits” (EHB) package that includes coverage for mental health and substance abuse disorder services starting Oct. 1. Michael Hogan, a former New York state mental health office commissioner and the chairman of the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, said improving the mental health system “must begin with a realization that we have begun to take big steps away from an approach that was both separate and unequal.” The country also needs better programs to help people who are showing signs of having psychotic disorders find and stay on effective medications, and get and keep jobs, Hogan said. 


Binge Drinking Becoming a Self-Medication Method for Teen Girls

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports on recent studies showing binge drinking is a growing problem among that nation's women and teen girls.

The alcoholic beverage industry counters the claims, saying that teenage drinking is at an all time low.

Whether at a high or low, one in five high school girls binge drink, according to the CDC and the result of such engagement with alcohol is dangerous.

How often and when a person drinks alcohol is as important as how much alcohol she drinks. For example, one drink every day seven drinks each week is considered drinking in moderation for an adult. However, drinking seven drinks in one night (binging) is considered alcohol abuse.

The organization warns that the high rates of binge drinking, most likely a method of self-medication, places females at a higher risk for breast cancer, heart disease, STDs and unintended pregnancy.

Safe drinking limits vary from person to person. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services state this general rule: moderate drinking no more than one drink a day for most women.

It may be hard to admit that you, or someone you know, is struggling with an alcohol problem. Balancing school, family, friends, and maybe even a boyfriend or girlfriend is hard work. It can be really easy to fall into the wrong things if you are stressed out and it can also be really easy to make a bad choice when you aren't feeling yourself.

is a unique prevention, intervention and aftercare Web site developed by KidsPeace to help teens safely and anonymously tell their stories and receive sound advice within 24 hours from specially trained volunteers and counselors.

Log on and work out a binge drinking issue here:
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