“I am the proud mother of a child with a mental health condition who was cutting himself and having suicidal ideation,” Jones said. “And it took me two and-a-half months to find care, somebody to see my son.”
The only reason she got her 9-year-old evaluated was by chance.
A cardiologist with whom Jones had a strong relationship just happened to know of ongoing research at Emory Rollins School of Public Health and Emory School of Medicine on the connection between heart defects and mental health.
The recently published results suggest that mental stress contributes substantially to the outcome of patients with heart disease, said Dr. Viola Vaccarino, who was lead author on the study published in JAMA.
“Data highlight the importance of emotional factors on the morbidity and mortality of patients with heart disease and have substantial implications for our understanding of the link between psychological stress and coronary heart disease,” Vaccarino said in a press release.
The situation in health care is known as parity, meaning heart defects should be treated the same way by insurance companies as treatment for substance use disorder. A federal parity law passed in 2008, but there is no mechanism to ensure parity is enforced in Georgia.
Now, Jones is the executive director of the Georgia chapter of NAMI, which is one of more than 14 advocate groups in the Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership.
Several members of the group met Nov. 10 at the state Capitol to present their unified vision to transform the way mental health and substance use disorders are addressed in Georgia.
“Parity improves health outcomes,” said Helen Robinson, associate director of public policy in the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program. “It helps prevent crisis and it can alleviate provider shortages, for example, in rural areas by ensuring that our providers are able be adequately reimbursed.”
Robinson said that, without parity, Georgia families must seek treatment out of network, pay more out of pocket, are limited to fewer visits for care or are denied coverage for needed behavioral health care because they are arbitrarily deemed to be not medically necessary without being provided an explanation.