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Briefing examines status of mental health care in Arizona

June 16, 2009

Some of Arizonans' most common and destructive illnesses – those of the brain – are failing to receive adequate treatment due to a combination of modern governmental gridlock and a centuries-old philosophy that separates the mind from the body, according to a new publication from Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

Arizona's Mind-Body Problem: Mental Health Systems and Choices, is the latest issue in the Forum 411 policy briefing series. The eight-page report looks at why mental health care has been relegated to second-class status, resulting in markedly fewer benefits for Arizonans with private insurance and a public system that has long has been criticized as underfunded, understaffed, and highly uneven in its quality of care.

How severe is the gridlock? Arizona's system, which spends more than $1 billion annually, has been embroiled in a major class-action lawsuit for 28 years.

National studies have repeatedly shown that mental disorders, from phobias and panic attacks to schizophrenia, are widespread throughout the population, inflict suffering on millions of individuals and their families, and cost society billions in lost production.

Yet most people still shrink from the stigma of acknowledging mental problems, while most health care providers still labor under the false premise--refuted by the U.S. Surgeon General and other authorities--that problems of the mind should be dealt with separately from problems of the body.

Arizona's Mind-Body Problem offers a range of policy choices, ranging from combating the stigma of mental illness to merging the public system with Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

This Forum 411 is scheduled to be presented on June 17 to the Arizona Senate Committee on Healthcare and Medical Liability Reform.

Sponsored by Westcor, Forum 411 is a quarterly briefing series offering policy, business, and community leaders information on Arizona's critical issues.