Laws, Policy, and Mental Health

May 18, 2011, 9:00 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

This month is Mental Health Month, a good time to note that while the mental health landscape has shifted over the last half a century -- legal reforms and new treatments have led to improvements in mental health care in the U.S. -- we still have a long way to go.

In a recent report in Mental Illness, Law, and a Public Health Law Research Agenda (pdf) for the National Public Health Law Research Program — an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Temple University Beasley School of Law — John Petrila, J.D., LL.M, a professor at the University of South Florida, and Jeffrey Swanson, a professor at the Duke University School of Medicine, talk about using laws to help solve the public health crisis of mental illness.

“In the last decade,” say the authors in their report, “numerous policymakers have concluded that the integration of mental health within public health is essential to improving care for people with or at risk for mental illnesses.”

And in an op-ed published today on the Health Care Blog, Swanson and Petrila note that "Public health laws and policies have an important role to play in keeping people safe and healthy; indeed, innovative laws may be the best approach to the daunting challenge of ensuring access to community-based mental health care for those who need it the most."

Read the full op-ed here. You can also watch "Violence, Mental Illness, and Gun Control," a lecture by Jeffrey Swanson, PhD, Professor in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine, here.


This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.