banner_logo_2014_2xOn March 7, at thet, held in Las Vegas, the National Council’s leader, Linda Rosenberg, gave a speech, “Fearless, But Not Reckless,” reflecting on changes in the world of behavioral health in the last 10 years.

Noting major politicians’ public support for mental healthcare and addiction treatment, Rosenberg extolled the recent success of national healthcare reform, which has led to Congress’s passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and The Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. These programs, she contended, have transformed the basis for care from fee-for-service to value-based outcomes, with deeper integration of behavioral healthcare into the overall delivery system.

She laid out many challenges, now and in the next ten years, for clinical social workers and other health professionals.

Regarding current and future issues, she identified insurance-funded long-term treatment options in communities as the best option for helping people to achieve and sustain recovery. She stressed the need for access to many approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapies, medication assistance, self-help programs, and supportive housing.

She also identified many public hot-button issues such as mental illness related to gun violence and protection of the privacy of those in treatment. She also touched on the current challenges of healthcare disparities (of all kinds), reform efforts, and the impact of value-based treatment and technology.

Citing the impact of social determinants and the environment, she stated that “there is great disparity based on race, class, and privilege which is at the heart of our country’s health disparities. Untreated trauma and unequal access to services have major impacts on mental health and on the rates of addiction and suicide. Mass incarceration and poverty contribute to early death in our communities.  ”

Clinical social workers should note that Rosenberg called upon health professionals to embrace technology and the measurement of data. Technology, she said, is not incompatible with clinical values. It can lead to more effective practice, and more impact on the policy-makers who use data to understand the value of behavioral health services.

As the majority provider of behavioral healthcare in the United States, clinical social workers are on the front lines of change and treatment, now and into the future. Do we have the vision and confidence to move into positions that will influence the shape of change? And how will we innovate in systems that may not welcome that change?

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