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Fall 2013, Volume 21, Number 4

View from the Administrator:
Column: Open Enrollment

By Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., SAMHSA Administrator

Less than 40 percent of adults currently get treatment for diagnosable mental illness and just 11 percent for substance use disorders. That's about to change.

This issue of SAMHSA News explains how the Affordable Care Act will take a big step toward fulfilling its promise on October 1, when open enrollment for new health coverage options begins. Coverage begins as early as January. More than 32 million individuals will gain mental health benefits, substance use benefits, or both under the Affordable Care Act.

Photo of Portrait of Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA Administrator

To prepare for the new Health Insurance Marketplace, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has revamped its HealthCare.gov site. This new site allows people to explore and compare all their options in one convenient place. It's also where most people will enroll in affordable new private insurance or a newly expanded Medicaid program.

In addition, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) offers assistance through marketplace.cms.gov to behavioral health treatment and service providers and others to get the latest resources and training to help people apply for benefits. SAMHSA is assisting in this effort through its Enrollment Coalitions Initiative, which has brought together approximately 35 organizations into five coalitions representing different constituencies to disseminate CMS enrollment materials through members and affiliates who interact with uninsured individuals with behavioral health conditions.

The five coalitions are: Housing and Homeless Services Organizations; Community-Based Prevention Organizations; Consumer, Family, Peer and Recovery Community Organizations; Mental Health and Substance Use Providers; and Criminal Justice Organizations. Each of these coalitions represents a unique national infrastructure of existing relationships with uninsured Americans with behavioral health needs. Although many of the individuals and organizations represented may never serve as professional in-person enrollment assisters or even providers of covered services, their value in promoting coverage enrollment is clear through their unifying commitment to reducing the impact of mental illness and addiction on American communities. While coverage is only one step towards achieving this mission, the open enrollment beginning on October 1 presents an extraordinary opportunity for millions of Americans with behavioral health needs to take it together. The success of this effort depends on the unified effort of the entire behavioral health community and we at SAMHSA are incredibly grateful for the commitment so many organizations and individuals have already made.

All of us in the behavioral health field have a collective responsibility to help people take advantage of this historic opportunity. Together, we can make sure that all people receive the behavioral health services they need.

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