NOW with Alex Wagner | February 20, 2013
>>> earlier this month in a usa today op-ed, health and human services secretary kathleen sebelius issued a call to bring mental illness out of the shadows. her plea did not exaggerate the severity of the problem. the latest report from the kaiser commission found a staggering 60% of americans and 70% of children with mental illness are not being treated. richard, that is a staggering statistic. we have been talking a lot about mental health in this country in the wake of newtown, but when it actually comes to putting one's money where one's mouth is, we look at resources for mental health across the country, and they are not great. why is that?
>> well, national survey on drug use in health that comes out of the substance abuse and mental health services administration 2011 data showed that of the people who, for example, for substance use disorders, wanted to get treatment, 45% of those folks couldn't get treatment because they couldn't afford it, and that includes those with insurance and still could not afford that treatment.
>> we do know the affordable care act , i think, is adding several millions of dollars to mental health services , but overall state mental health spending from 2009 to 2012 , which is only a three-year period, is down 12%.
>> of course, it is, because they have no voice, right? we think about constituencies with a political voice. who's the group that's least likely to be able to support itself and advocate for itself? it's people with severe mental illnesses , substance use disorders, et cetera . developmental disabilities .
>> to some degree, it's the way we talk about mental illness in this country, whether or not it's severe mental illness or, you know, there's, obviously, a spectrum in terms of sociability and so forth. but at the end of the day , we showed that video from the ideals school, the notion of compassion and empathy. that's almost the most powerful takeaway from the school is the idea you can have an entire generation reared on the idea these people are no different. having asperger's is no different than being left handed.
>> which is if it is practiced consistently and effectively is fantastic. the problem is, the budget cuts are a big, big issue. as a parent with two kids who at various points needed assistance, the availability of therapy was much greater several years ago. in every state, it has really come down a lot. with the way we talk about mental illness tends to be, as you said, a very broad umbrella. i'm loathed to talk about adam lanza or sort of speculate on his condition, because there is no way and his mother can't speak to his history now, but i do think it's very important when you are dealing with mental illness to not use the word mental illness repeatedly when you're talking about kids with asburgers or the autism spectrum . that becomes stigmatizing and a big part of the education process in this country.
>> when we talk -- also on that note, as maggie mentions, as far as newtown, the n.i.h. reports less than 5% of violent crimes are committed by individuals with mental illness , but there is a question of how we embrace people different than us, joy, and we talk about this being the next civil rights frontier. that's a powerful thesis to be working from, we should be pushing for equality, and i think that means engaging people. but people who don't have asburger's and people who do have asperger's.
>> look, there are already children with developmental disabilities and mental illness of various kinds and they are already mainstreamed in our classrooms and schools. they are undiagnosed, untreated, but they are already there.
>> feeling isolated.
>> stigmatized, bullied, and we look at the pathologies in poor communities with more homicide, more suicide, kids that can't pass standardized tests. i bet if you did some care and found origins of problems that emanate from the school, community, on and on, have to do with untreated, undiagnosed mental illness and people who just need care.
>> in any year if you look at folks over the age of 18, any year 11% of the population have an active disorder. three most prevalent classes of mental disorders in the united states . millions and millions and millions of people, and the truth of the matter is, there isn't proper screening because this is in the closet, because mental illness is still stigmatized, because we think about superstitious and hocus-pocus kinds of ways to get things out on the table and get dealt with early on. as i've often told people, if you try to sail your boat to great britain and are leaving new york harbor , it takes less effort to course correct when you're off new york harbor than off the coast of africa.
>> it's worth noting, howard, the president has launched an effort to map the human brain this week, and, of course, that is getting decried on some corners as not a great use of our resources, but when you think about where we've come since we've begun mapping the human genome , pardon the pun, but seems a no-brainer and something we should be dedicating resources to.
>> i don't know why we wouldn't spend money to find more about our minds and bodies.
>> i would also say, we have to go, but richard, we mention the words compassion and empathy and how much would those two qualities change the current political debate ?
>> if people could be more empathetic and sympathetic.
>> being able to stand in someone else's shoes would change a lot.
>> we have to leave it there, but our thanks to dr. richard rosenthal . great to