July 22, 2003

American Psychological Association Applauds Final Report of President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health

Report’s emphasis on transforming nation's mental health system to build resilience and promote recovery is critical

WASHINGTON - The American Psychological Association (APA) heralds today's release of the final report of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America, as a critical step forward in improving the quality of mental health services for our nation. About 30 percent of our nation's adults suffer from a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder, and 20 percent of our nation's children display the signs or symptoms of a diagnosable mental disorder within the course of a year. The final report, which reflects months of hard work by the commissioners, both expert and public input and extensive deliberations, focuses on the inextricable link between mental health and physical health, and recommends a fundamental transformation in our nation's mental health system. The report offers the potential to enhance the health and well being of millions of Americans by enabling individuals with mental disorders to participate more fully in life's day-to-day activities.

"The recommendations offered by the Commission today will enable people with mental disorders to receive more timely and more appropriate care coordinated within a workable mental health service delivery system," predicts Commissioner Deanna F. Yates, Ph.D., a private practitioner based in San Antonio and President of the Texas Psychological Association. Dr. Yates was one of three APA members to serve on the Commission, which also included Larke Nahme Huang, Ph.D., Director of Research at the Center for Child Health and Mental Health Policy at Georgetown University, and Stephen Wright Mayberg, Ph.D., Director of the California Department of Mental Health.

The APA commends the Commission for offering both broad-based goals and concrete recommendations to improve both the quality and efficiency of mental health services. In addition to highlighting a significant public health issue and providing a national voice for individuals coping with mental disorders, the final report:

  • Supports the call by President Bush for federal legislation to provide full parity between insurance coverage for mental health and physical health care.
  • Stresses the critical importance of early screening, assessment, and intervention across the lifespan and the need to overcome stigma associated with mental disorders.
  • Underscores the value of individualized care that is consumer and family driven.
  • Calls for mental health and suicide prevention to be regarded as national priorities.
  • Emphasizes the need to improve access to mental health services, especially for children, older adults, and people of color.
  • Recommends improvements in collaborative care treatment involving both primary care and mental health providers and in diverse settings.
  • Recommends ways to expand the mental health workforce and improve the quality of training provided to meet the needs of underserved populations and areas.
  • Highlights treatment models that have a proven track record for improving care.
  • Recognizes the importance of emerging best practices in the mental health field and the need for ongoing dialogue and collaboration between researchers and mental health providers to promote meaningful improvements in quality of care.

"When implemented, these recommendations will help to ameliorate the fragmentation that is rampant throughout our country's existing mental health delivery system and will significantly improve the lives of people living with mental disorders," states Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of the APA. "Our Association looks forward to embarking on the journey with other stakeholders in mental health to breathe life and hope into the recommendations set forth by the Commission."

Consistent with the report's emphasis on recovery and resilience, APA has been engaged for some time in a number of mental health promotion initiatives, including a nationwide public education campaign, "The Road to Resilience," which helps people learn how to manage significant life stressors and promotes positive mental health. APA is dedicated to the vision of a "transformed mental health system" espoused by the Commission wherein "all Americans will share equally in the best available services and outcomes, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or geographic location."

President Bush established the Commission in April 2002 as part of his New Freedom initiative to eliminate inequality for Americans with disabilities, charging it with the first comprehensive study of the nation's public and private mental health service delivery system since President Carter's 1978 Mental Health Commission 25 years ago. The Commission's Interim Report released last October declared the existing system a fragmented, inefficient maze of private, federal, state, and local government programs with scattered responsibility for services that frustrates both people with mental disorders and providers of mental health care, and called for dramatic reform at all levels of the mental health system.

For more information about APA's activities in connection with the report, please see http://www.apa.org/about/gr/pi/advocacy/freedom-commission.aspx.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.