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The Call to Congress Continues: Expand the Excellence Act

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Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Call to Congress Continues: Expand the Excellence Act

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In the weeks following a national op-ed calling for an expansion of the Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration, two more statewide op-eds have been published asking Congress to #Fundthe24. The two states – New Jersey and Oklahoma – are among the 24 states across the country currently engaged in the one-year demonstration planning process.

 

In New Jersey, Debra Wentz, President and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc., identified the pressing need for the state-specific solutions the Excellence Act would provide. “[The] problems are different and yet alike. In New Jersey, we struggle to cope with increasing problems of deaths from opioid overdoses, homelessness and backed-up emergency rooms, as well as long waiting lists for treatment,” wrote Wentz. “In rural states, people with these issues may have to travel for hours to get treatment. The same problems, different ways to solve them.” She pointed out the important role the Excellence Act will play in addressing these challenges, calling on Congress to expand the demonstration to all 24 planning states.

 

Julia Jernigan, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Substance Use Service Alliance, pointed out that addiction disorder is the greatest health issue in the state of Oklahoma. “Addiction is our No. 1 Oklahoma health issue, costing our state an estimate on the low end of $6.8 billion annually — and costing many lives. In the past year, nearly 22 percent of adult Oklahomans reported having a mental health issue, and 12 percent experienced an addiction issue.” Jernigan noted that Oklahoma is relying on its participation in the demonstration to expand its behavioral health treatment capacity, but without an expansion of the Excellence Act, her state and others may be forced to stop these reforms in their tracks.

 

The National Council congratulates Debra Wentz and Julia Jernigan for their published op-eds. Over the last month, thousands of messages have been sent to hundreds of Members of Congress, continuing the call for an expansion of the Excellence Act demonstration project. Want send your own message to Congress? Take action today!

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