Congress Makes Progress
As recently noted in the Washington Post, mental health issues are a significant concern for policymakers in the nation’s capital. This has been good news for mental health advocates. We’ve seen our legislative priorities move forward as Congress considers various pieces of legislation.
These priorities include:
- The bipartisan STRONG Veterans Act, HR 6411, would expand peer support services for Veterans. The legislation includes language from an additional bill, the Veteran Peer Specialist Act of 2021, which would provide additional funding for peer support services. HR 6411 is awaiting approval by the full House of Representatives and Senate.
- The Promoting Effective and Empowering Recovery Services in Medicare Act of 2021. This legislation would clarify the eligibility for the participation of peer support specialists in the delivery of behavioral health services under Medicare.
- The Virtual Peer Support Act would provide more funding for local peer support programs utilizing the skills of state-certified peer support specialists. Along with a similar bill introduced by Senator Raphael Warnock, these efforts are part of additional legislation expected from the Senate Health Education and Labor Committee late this summer.
These represent three of the most significant pieces of legislation advocated by DBSA.
Other key advocacy issues include addressing mental health parity: continuing telehealth services for those with behavioral health issues, implementing the new 988 crisis phone line, and expanding crisis response programs.
In addition to this congressional activity, DBSA was heartened to see President Biden’s announcement of a strategy for America’s Mental Health Crisis. This announcement included specific proposals regarding peer support and the peer support workforce, the first time that a presidential administration has ever highlighted these topics. DBSA looks forward to working with the Biden Administration to move these proposals forward.
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Bring Hope to Others by Becoming a Peer Support Specialist
As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to address the mounting mental health crisis, peer support is taking center stage as a critical component of mental healthcare.
For those who desire to take another step toward being a beacon of hope and support, you may wish to learn more about becoming a peer specialist. This unique role can be found in both volunteer and paid positions. Taking a peer specialist course does not guarantee employment. Still, it can be a powerful way to learn tools to support yourself and those for whom you care.
Peer specialists are everyday individuals embarking on a journey of healing and recovery for themselves and their communities. They are community members who use their experiences of trauma and mental wellness as a tool and resource to inspire hope and encouragement for others on their healing journey. DBSA’s Peer Apprentice Program offers two years of part-time paid skills training to equip selected individuals with lived experience to take the test for state certification and gain employment in this new vital field.
Self-Advocacy Tips: Avoid Compassion Fatigue with These Three Steps
Thousands of people turn to DBSA for compassion and support every day, whether in a group setting, wellness tool, or peer inspiration. In her article Avoiding Compassion Fatigue, Beth M. Vaccaro, MA LPC, reminds us that providing peer support starts with how we advocate or care for ourselves.
Vaccaro defines compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout and identifies three preventative steps to minimize or avoid these conditions. Compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout are separate yet related states that a peer supporter or caregiver can experience.
Compassion fatigue, which can result from empathizing with someone going through a health crisis, appears quickly, causing feelings of being overwhelmed and emotional shutdown. Caregiver burnout builds slowly, often accompanied by extended and severe mental, physical, and emotional symptoms, such as “anger, irritability, bottled-up feelings, sadness, apathy, anxiety, exhaustion, difficulty making decisions or concentrating, and depression.”
According to Vaccaro, you can prevent compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout by following these steps:
- Recognize that you may identify with the above. Awareness is the first step to finding solutions.
- Balance choices you make related to your nutrition, sleep, physical activity, support, interests, and passions.
- Connect with a support group, friends, family members, or a therapist who can listen to your needs.
Finally, Vaccaro suggests that valuing and caring for ourselves can change the false notion that “there is nothing more valiant than putting others’ needs before our own.”
DBSA Support Groups: https://www.dbsalliance.org/support/
DBSA Wellness Tools: https://www.dbsalliance.org/wellness/
- The Biden administration renewed indefinitely the public health emergency (PHE) provisions related to COVID. This renewal addresses several post-PHE health care system issues—specifically, concerns about telehealth flexibilities, Medicaid determinations, and implementing the No Surprises Act. The administration did not delineate an end date for the PHE extension; however, we expect there to be a 60-day notice. Given the significant changes in the past two years, Congress and the Administration now have more time to establish permanent fixes for several healthcare system improvements.
- President Biden has outlined a National Mental Health Strategy for the next budget, including developing a national peer specialist credentialing program. The proposal includes permanent funding for the Certified Community Behavioral Health Center program. The strategy would expand access to care by strengthening mental health parity and foster healthy communities through prevention and intervention programs. The plan focuses on youth mental health, social determinants of health, and equity, using a holistic approach to address the mental health and substance use crises.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this week, anxiety and depression increased 25% worldwide in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Widening gaps in care and stress factors—including constraints on the ability to seek support and engage in community and work—significantly contributed to this increase. Further, young people are increasingly and disproportionately at-risk for suicide and self-harm, with expected long-term pandemic impacts. WHO is encouraging countries to prioritize and invest in the mental health of their citizens.