This year, we recognize September as National Recovery Month, a time to raise awareness of prevention, treatment, and recovery from mental and substance abuse disorders. With more than 20 million people in recovery from substance abuse disorders, National Recovery Month provides an opportunity to learn about the impact of mental illness on the United States and the efforts millions have made to overcome their disease.
Mental health disorders are widespread and have a deep impact on our nation – our public health, economy, and military. These illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are the leading cause of disability in the United States. In 2010, 20 percent of all adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had a mental illness. That same year, an estimated 8.9 percent of the population aged 12 or older said they had used illicit drugs in the past month – up from eight percent in 2008. Drug usage does not guarantee drug dependency or abuse, but this notable increase may lead to greater demand for substance abuse services as mental health programs across the nation face funding shortages and diminished support from the federal government and state and local governments.
As we welcome home a generation of veterans returning from the two longest wars in U.S. history, support for mental health treatment and study must be at the forefront. The RAND Corporation estimates that 18.5 percent of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, and 19.5 percent reported experiencing a traumatic brain injury during deployment. That is why I was proud to support nearly $6.2 billion in Veterans Administration funding for mental health services in fiscal year 2013, and almost $6.5 billion in advance appropriations for fiscal year 2014 to ensure continuity of care. To treat the invisible wounds of war, I supported more than $443 million for PTSD study and treatment. We have a responsibility to provide these brave men and women with continued support and funding for study and treatment of their injuries and conditions.
The theme for September’s National Recovery Month, “Join the Voices for Recovery: It’s Worth It,” emphasizes the positive impact and value prevention and recovery have on individuals, families and communities. Recovery is often a long, difficult journey, but it’s worth the effort, for yourself, your friends and your family.
This summer, I was able to see firsthand the value of recovery programs when I visited the staff the Phoenix House in Arlington. Since 1962, the Phoenix House has provided residential, transitional, and outpatient treatment for more than 30,000 individuals struggling with substance abuse.
The vocational program at the Phoenix House was established in part with $250,000 in funding I was able to secure in fiscal year 2010. It was inspiring to meet and speak with graduates of the program about their recovery and how the program helped them into successful careers in the food service industry and grocery store management. The program has been in place since November 2010 and will run through September 30, 2012. Phoenix House demonstrates the importance of mental health treatment and should be replicated across the country.
I will continue supporting efforts to prevent and treat mental disorders in Congress and across Northern Virginia. To learn more about National Recovery Month and mental health in America, please visit:www.recoverymonth.gov.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.