U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is optimistic that actress Glenn Close may help his cause to expand government access to treatment for those dealing with mental illness.
“I’m hopeful this is something we can get done,’’ Blunt told reporters in a conference call this week.
Mental health, he contended, has been shortchanged. Unlike other medical issues, mental health “has not been looked at as a society or government as something we want to deal with.”
Blunt is among the senators pressing for approval of a provision that would create demonstration programs in various parts of the country, including Missouri, where mental health treatment would available at federally qualified medical clinics and health centers.
The “Excellence in Mental Health Act,” as the measure is called, won the approval of the Senate’s Finance Committee earlier this month.
The sponsors’ plan is attach the mental health provision as an amendment to a broader health care bill that’s expected to come up for debate in January. The broader measure would, among other things, block the scheduled cuts in physicians’ reimbursement rates for treating Medicare patients that are part of the new compromise budget deal that just passed Congress.
Blunt is working with a bipartisan group of fellow senators, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. She joined Blunt at a news conference earlier this week in Washington, which featured Close.
Close is the founder of Bring Change 2 Mind, an organization that is seeks to address the stigma surrounding mental-health issues. She has several relatives struggling with the disease.
“Approximately one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder each year nationwide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health,” Blunt said at that news conference. “We’ve got a model that works to solve these important problems, and passing this bipartisan provision out of committee is an important step forward. Now is the time for Congress to act.”