Legislation To Help

Treat Americans For Depression and Bipolar Disorders

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (October 28, 2009)—Mental Health America is applauding legislation introduced by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators to establish national centers of excellence for the treatment of depression and bipolar disorders.

The centers will create a national network to help diagnose people in need and improve access to evidence-based, quality care.

The bill, called the “ENHANCED Act” was introduced by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and John Kerry (D-Mass.). Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) is also a co-sponsor.

The legislation is based on efforts catalyzed by the University of Michigan Depression Center with 15 other leading academic medical centers across the nation. Joining together, these universities created a network of depression centers positioned to take academic research and translate it into practice, standardize diagnoses, treat early and more effectively, and prevent recurrences of depression and bipolar disorders.

In a letter to Stabenow applauding her leadership in crafting the bill, Mental Health America said:

“These centers are especially critical at this time given the strong evidence that economic uncertainty and recession increase the rates of psychiatric symptoms and demand for services. Depression is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher health care costs. Rates of depression and suicide—already at a staggering level of nearly 33,000 persons a year (roughly twice the number of homicides)—tend to climb during times of economic tumult. Our nation must prioritize the integration and coordination of mental health with general health care.” (The letter can be viewed here.)

The ENHANCED Act of 2009:

• Creates a national network with a pathway for developing and expanding up to 30 depression centers of excellence to increase access to the most appropriate and evidence-based depression care.

• Develops evidence-based treatment standards, clinical guidelines, and protocols to improve accurate and timely diagnosis of depression and bipolar disorders.

• Expands multidisciplinary, translational, and patient-oriented research by fostering the collaboration of academic and community-based service centers.

• Establishes a sustainable national resource for public and professional education and training, to advance knowledge and eradicate the stigma associated with depression and mood disorders.