Homelessness is a mental health issue. Trump wants to fix this.

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President Trump is exceptionally focused on fighting for Americans who can’t fight for themselves and confronting problems other administrations, Democratic and Republican, have ignored. This is particularly true for Americans who suffer from addiction and serious mental disorders. In this year’s budget, President Trump is proposing the boldest reform in decades for the millions of Americans who live with serious mental illness, says an opinion article in the Washington Post by Joe Grogan, director of health programs at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

Americans with serious mental illness are not receiving the care they desperately need. In 2018, 47 million people experienced some form of mental illness. More than 11 million of these Americans lived with mental illness of such severity that it impaired their ability to carry out normal life functions. And nearly 4 million Americans received no treatment at all. This is unacceptable.

In the 1950s, there were more than 550,000 state psychiatric hospital beds in the United States. By 2016, this number had dropped to 37,679. Instead of receiving care, the sick are locked behind bars…There are more than 392,000 incarcerated individuals with serious mental illness. That means there are 10 times more individuals with serious mental illnesses in prison beds than in state psychiatric hospital beds.

We see the result of this crisis every day in America’s cities. There are at least 111,122 individuals with serious mental illness who are homeless, including 52,180 who have no form of shelter. We walk right past them as they suffer from exposure to the elements, inadequate nutrition, poor hygiene and lack of protection from violent thugs…

…It is not compassionate, and it is not humane to discard these citizens and ignore their suffering.

That is why the president declared at the first White House Summit on Mental Health, in the video above.

“My administration is strongly committed to helping Americans suffering from mental illness.”

President Trump

And the administration has already taken action. Last year’s funding bill provided $3.9 billion for mental health programs, a $328 million increase. The Administration invested in evidence-based programs including early detection, assisted-outpatient treatment and supported our law enforcement professionals.

Finally, the administration solicited and approved the first-of-their-kind demonstrations for states to improve access to the full continuum of care these individuals desperately need.

Image: https://flickr.com/photos/sashaes/ CC by 2.0

But more remains to be done: President Trump is proposing to modify the outdated Institutions for Mental Disease payment exclusion, the long-standing Medicaid policy that prohibits federal reimbursement for many Medicaid-eligible patients who receive care in certain inpatient facilities dedicated to mental disease. These important changes will provide more than $5 billion in new federal funding to states that ensure a full continuum of care is in place to assist in getting people with serious mental illness the care they need and, in many cases, off the streets and out of prisons.

This is not only the right thing to do, but it also potentially saves taxpayer dollars down the road by investing in proven outcomes that keep these fellow citizens productive and in the workplace…We will finally begin to improve access to inpatient care for Americans with serious mental illness without returning to the days of “warehousing” Americans with mental illness in large institutions.

For too long, our country has failed to open access to treatment and assistance for Americans with serious mental illness and their families. All Americans with serious mental illnesses have the ability to lead productive and dignified lives and have access to the care they need.

Joe Grogan is director of health programs at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. He holds the power over hundreds of regulations shaping how the federal government runs Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, the FDA, the CDC and all the other sub-agencies contained within the sprawl of the Department of Health and Human Services.