Mental health in America is broken. The federal government controls the funding for mental health care, but currently, there’s not a plan in place to fix the crisis tormenting our nation. I believe it’s time for us to create a strategy. It’s time to offer an effective solution for our veterans, our first responders, our neighbors who desperately need the resources that the federal government has failed to provide for them. Transferring funding for mental health care back to the states will give us the power and means to help our fellow Alabamians in need.
The federal government attempted to take charge of America’s mental health by passing the Community Mental Health Act in 1963. Its intentions were optimistic: The federal government created and funded community mental health centers (CMHCs) to provide appropriate care for the mentally ill. But the legislation didn’t solve the problem, and no other solution has been offered. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2 million people with mental illnesses are booked into jails each year. More are living homeless on the streets. None have access to the medical care they need.
The federal government’s blanket solution of CMHCs is ineffective. There are millions of cases that need specific, individualized attention—cases that can’t be solved by one-size-fits-all methods. The federal government doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide appropriate care for those in need. But individual states do. It’s time for us to step up and solve the problem raging in our own backyard.
We can look to telemedicine companies such as Teladoc to provide easy access to mental health care. Teladoc connects its patients with doctors, therapists, and medical experts by phone and video. It appeals to individuals who may be too intimidated to visit a doctor’s office in person because of the stigma surrounding mental health. This way, patients are quickly connected to a professional while maintaining their privacy.
Our veterans are one of the many groups that need mental health attention. These men and women bravely fought to protect our country—to protect us—and they are suffering post-traumatic stress as they return home after their service and attempt to assimilate into mainstream society. Now it’s time for us to protect and provide care for our veterans. We can all help end the stigma surrounding mental health, so those who need it most will not be afraid to ask for it or receive it.
It’s time for the federal government to turn funding for mental health care over to the states. It’s time for us to take control of the crisis and help our veterans, our first responders, and our neighbors who are struggling. The federal government has proven that it won’t solve the problem, so it’s time for us to reach out a helping hand.
Tommy Tuberville is a Republican running for U.S. Senate in Alabama.