Senator Jay Rockefeller today announced that he has cosponsored legislation, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, that would help close the behavioral health treatment gap in West Virginia -- one of the primary identified barriers to curbing the substance abuse epidemic in the state. Annually, an estimated 21,000 West Virginians in need of addiction treatment don't receive it.
"I've heard from West Virginians who want treatment for themselves or their loved ones and can't get it -- like the grandmother whose only option for her addicted grandson was incarceration. In the midst of such an overwhelming prescription drug abuse epidemic, we have to give people an answer -- and a place to turn," Rockefeller said. "This legislation represents a critical piece of the solution to a severe and complex issue in West Virginia. The right kind of treatment works, and it helps people turn their lives around."
The Excellence in Mental Health Act would support the modernization and construction of behavioral health center facilities used to provide mental health and substance abuse services -- providing greater access to services for West Virginians in need of treatment. Specifically, states like West Virginia that need a variety of mental health services can apply for federal grants to build or upgrade existing facilities that offer a wide range of settings from traditional counseling to inpatient detoxification.
In addition, the legislation would bolster West Virginia's community mental health and addictions system by providing a pathway for organizations, including addiction treatment programs, to offer a whole-person approach to treating patients with difficult needs. By integrating mental health treatment with other medical services, this legislation would help prevent the development of health problems that are costly to state and federal governments.
This legislation is the latest in Rockefeller's years-long, ongoing work to curb the prescription drug abuse epidemic in West Virginia. Just last week, he reintroduced his comprehensive Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which, among other provisions, requires the development of quality standards for substance abuse treatment services.
Rockefeller, along with U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Gil Kerlikowske, will discuss the importance of addressing West Virginia's treatment needs with those on the front lines of this issue this Thursday at the University of Charleston.