Bill would guarantee annual mental health wellness exams

Boston – Massachusetts residents would be eligible for annual mental health wellness exams – equivalent to annual physical exams – at no cost under a comprehensive mental health bill to be debated by the state Senate next week.

The bill would also create an online portal to help facilitate the transition from acute to long-term care; set aside $ 122 million to recruit and retain nearly 2,000 behavioral professionals; and establish a panel to help address barriers to caring for children with complex behavioral health needs who are in an emergency room.

The goal of the bill is to create a more robust mental health care system in line with the state’s existing health care system, advocates such as Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka believe.

Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, stands in the Senate Chamber at Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.  Supporters like Spilka say that the goal of the bill is to create a robust mental health care on a par with the state's existing health care.

For Spilka, the issue of expanding access to psychiatry is both personal and political. She has talked about the undiagnosed and untreated post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues her father, a WWII veteran, suffered for most of her life.

“I know on my own how mental states can affect the whole family, not just the person who may be experiencing mental health issues, but the whole family,” Spilka said as she unveiled the bill earlier this week.

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