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News + Press

Seven Counties and Centerstone Visit White House

June 20th, 2016

On June 7, 2016 Seven Counties and Centerstone staff visited the While House to attend an invitation only event.  The second in a four-part series entitled “Making Health Care Better” focused on mental health and coincided with the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Hill Day.  The upcoming third session will focus on addiction.

The discussion began with remarks from US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who opened by saying that “perhaps our most important resource is compassion as it allows us to stop judging and start helping.” He cited a need to improve emotional well-being not just mental health as practiced in a school program measuring anxiety and sleep scores.  Dr. Murthy shared his personal story of learning his uncle had committed suicide.

President Obama’s Director for Domestic Policy, Cecilia Munoz who chairs the President’s Parity Task Force, moderated the first panel on “Policy Changes to Improve Understanding of, Access to and Coverage of Mental Health Services.”  Each panelist described his/her role in improving the mental health of Americans. Highlights included:

  • Kana Enomoto, Acting Director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration discussed her agency’s priority of reducing time to treatment for those enduring their first experience with psychosis.
  • Shelli Avenevoli, Acting Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, cited promising research on the use of Ketamine to treat depression.
  • Jim Macrae, Administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration, announced an increase in National Health Service Corps loan forgiveness slots of $7 million. About a third of these slots are currently utilized for behavioral health professionals. Seven Counties is currently working with the health service corps to help us qualify for programs which promote recruitment and retention of behavioral health professionals in underserved communities.

The second panel, “Deepening the Conversation on Mental Health” was facilitated by Keita Franklin, Director of the Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Office. This captivating panel engaged the audience with compelling real life stories that both illustrated the critical need for mental health reform and discussed current legislation that is making a difference.

  • Senator Gordon Smith’s son Garrett Lee Smith committed suicide. As a result the Senator was inspired to sponsor suicide prevention legislation carrying his son’s name.  Senator Smith challenged the federal government to collect data from insurance companies that would allow for parity to become a reality in practice.
  • Jeff Fraley, Executive Producer of tv and brother of a sibling with a serious mental illness, offered his online content free to providers for use in care, community education or outreach.  His website offers more than one hundred “stories of the mind”, short documentaries of six to eight minutes.
  • Sidney Hankerson of Columbia is a practicing psychiatrist in a community health center who spoke of his work training African American clergy in Harlem on mental health first aid.

The final panel, “Improving the Delivery of Mental Health Services and Prevention Locally and Nationally” was facilitated by Carole Johnson, member of President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.  The National Council’s CEO Linda Rosenberg served on this panel and discussed the National Council’s role in shaping policy to help improve the mental health service delivery system in America.  Barbara Ricci, Managing Director of Deutsche Bank in New York, spoke of her initiative to develop a tool kit for business leaders to bring mental health awareness to the workplace.  She has recruited 15 CEOs who pledge to pioneer this effort in their national companies.

By far the most compelling illustration of the need for more and improved behavioral health services was Bob Filbin, Chief Data Scientist for Crisis Text Line. The Crisis Text Line is a free 24/7 support line for those in crisis.  Since August 2013 the organization has answered over 18 million texts from teens and young adults.  The call center is monitored by trained crisis volunteers and professional supervisors.  Crisis Text Line is achieving 8 rescues a day of active suicide attempts in addition to 50,000 interventions a month.

And finally, we heard Secretary Robert McDonald of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.  His closing remarks highlighted the contributions the VA has made to medical science including three Nobel Prize winners, the first electronic health record in a major medical system, the “aspirin a day” prevention remedy for heart attacks, nicotine patches, the first liver transplant and most recently, a predictive model for suicide.  Earlier in the session, Deputy Secretary David Shulkin noted that the VA is the largest integrated delivery system in the country achieving the highest national behavioral health treatment rates of 28% for all patients in care.

The only complaint from those who attended was that we wished there was more time to ask questions and to hear from the panelists; they were fantastic!  We applaud President Obama for creating the Making Health Care Better Series.

Mary Ruiz, CEO Centerstone of Florida
Gwen Cooper, VP External Affairs Seven Counties Services