Mental health is on the ballot in 2020 |

Mental health is on the ballot in 2020

Robin V Reedy

We’re facing an urgent crisis that needs the attention of all candidates running for office. No, it doesn’t begin with the letter “I,” but everyone should be talking about it.

Nevada is facing a mental health care crisis.

Our state is great at many things, yet we’re currently ranked 51st in the country for mental health. From Carson City to the Strip, people are struggling to access mental health care. We have too few mental health professionals to meet the need, many of which do not accept insurance. When people can finally find someone in their insurance network, they may not accept new patients without a massive wait list. That’s all before considering the additional hoops one must jump through to receive the right treatment at the right time.

If we treated heart disease and diabetes like this, it would be met with outrage. But we’ve allowed mental health to be treated in a separate, often discriminatory way.

If this all seems wrong, that’s because it is. It’s unacceptable.

The great news is you’re not powerless in this effort. In fact, you already play a major role. Every time you cast a ballot in an election, you directly influence the mental health care in your community. From your city council to the presidential election, when you vote, you make an impact.

There’s a lot on everyone’s minds in the lead up to the caucuses and November’s elections, like the economy and jobs, education, and health care. With so much to consider, you may not think of yourself as a “mental health voter.” However, mental health touches the issues you already care about.

Is the economy your number one issue? The rate of unemployment among adults with mental illness is higher than the rate of adults who do not. Serious mental illness also causes over $190 billion in lost earnings in this country each year.

Care about our children’s education? High school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers.

Interested in criminal justice reform? Over one-third of adults incarcerated in the nation’s state and federal prison system have a diagnosed mental illness.

Feel we need to address health care broadly? Mental illness and substance use disorders are involved in one out of every eight emergency department visits by an adult. And over one in eight adults with serious mental illness, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, had no insurance coverage in 2018.

It’s all interconnected. That’s why it’s so critical that our candidates make mental health a top priority. If they don’t do it proactively, we need to unite to make it happen.

While one in five Nevadans will experience a mental health condition, we at NAMI Nevada know first-hand that mental health truly impacts five in five: us, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, our communities, our state, our country. We all reap the benefits — or shoulder the brunt — of our mental health system.

When you go to caucus on February 22, support whomever you feel will best address the needs of this moment. But don’t forget the impact you can make for the people in this great state.

Robin V Reedy is executive director of NAMI Nevada.