ACA Repeal: Stories from the Frontlines of Mental Health Treatment and Care

As we know, the legislative efforts to repeal and replace the Affodrable Care Act (ACA) —including or especially a potential rollback of the Act’s Medicaid expansion — carry particularly and criticially high risks for men, women and families in treatment for addiction and mental health disorders.

Nationwide, 24 million of us stand to lose Medicaid coverage, while here in Massachusetts, an estimated 300,000 MassHealth-covered families and individuals could lose access to affordable care. 

In last week’s blog post, we promised to bring you a series of stories from the frontlines of behavioral health — real-life patient vignettes that demonstrate how access to publicly-funded care changes (or saves) our clients’ or patients’ lives.

Here’s this week’s story from one of our outpatient counseling clinics on the North Shore:

In her early 20s, “Debbie” was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder and was hospitalized numerous times. 

Shortly after her diagnosis, she gave birth to her son and was forced to give up custody to the father, from whom she is now divorced.  

Fast forward to the present day, now with insurance. “Debbie” is now  working part-time and meets with her adult son at least once a week for dinner.

Through many years of therapy and many trials of different medications, Debbie has ultimately realized her own strength, and she chooses to manage her diagnosis with pride. 

She has chosen, as well, to manage her overall health. She walks 30-45 minutes per day and swims 2-3 days per week.  She has mastered healthy cooking, often cooking with her son. 

Without the time, support and empowerment she has been offered here at our outpatient mental health clinic, she may not have learned to care for both her mental and physical health.  She conquered the guilt that she felt in giving up her son as well as the shame she felt in being labeled as “mentally ill.”  

4 Ways to Advocate 

We listed some suggestions last week — including how you can contact your legislator and write to the local media to advocate for sustained and affordable access to care.

1. Where does your state or local legislator stand on the new healthcare bill? -  Click here to find out.

2. Contact your local legislators — Call both the district and Washington, D.C. office of each of your local or state representatives.  Find the contact list for your state and district here.

3. Form a coalition and request a meeting — These days, many of our Washington representatives are favoring small-group meetings versus large town-hall gatherings. Find and rally your  tribe. Unite and create talking points around one single issue. Then, request and set up a small-group advoacy meeting with your local represtatives

4. Tell it once. Tell it again  - Already contacted your legislator (s)?  That’s great, but members of Congress need to be updated on the real-life impacts of making cuts and reducing healthcare access for our neighbors and family members. Research the most recent statistics and studies (see last week’s list of resources). Then, call or write to your representative(s) with an updated set of facts.


Repealing the Affordable Care Act >

Reporters, health bloggers, producers:

Types of stories and commentary: Mental health, teenage wellness (bullying, suicide, drug use, depression), family health, domestic abuse, sexual assault, drug use, alcoholism and related or proposed state and federal legislation.

Timelines: Usually, we have been able to set a reporter up with an expert interview within 24 hours (or less) of the initial call. While we are often restricted by federal HIPAA laws, we will make every effort to help you to tell your story, meet your deadline and to put a human face on the issues.

Beat: Our programs serve towns and cities in Essex County, the Merrimack Valley and Greater Boston.

Contact: Call us at 978-968-1736 or email us. Check out some recent stories (left), or follow our news ideas on Twitter.