Judi Evans: Restrictive access is a major cost for mental illness


Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 2:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 2:36 p.m.

Mental illness affects one in four Americans, including more than 600,000 in Florida. For most of these individuals, the successful management of their disease depends on unrestricted access to the kinds of medication and treatment they need. Patients rely on the expertise of their health care provider to provide the best plan of care that will significantly reduce their symptoms and improve quality of life. With this proper care, Floridians with mental illnesses can hold jobs, maintain healthy relationships and live successfully in our communities.

Open and unrestricted access to psychiatric medications is critical to the effective treatment of mental illness. Florida cannot afford to have a “one size fits all” mentality when it comes to treatment of mental illness, as medications targeting mental illness are usually not

interchangeable due to variances in formulations, side effects, efficacy and safety. Each individual reacts differently to medications, and restricting these individuals’ access to their best care causes harmful and costly consequences.

While the savings garnered from medication restrictions may seem tempting to policy makers facing difficult budgetary decisions, this shortsighted solution will create greater long-term costs for persons with serious mental illness and our state. Each change in a person’s treatment may require additional doctors visits, medical testing and monitoring. Policies that require patients to switch medications also lead to high cost crisis interventions and hospitalizations. For example, a year’s worth of medication costs an average of $3,800 while the average cost of hospitalization is $950 per day. When Floridians are not able to adhere to

their prescribed medication routine, the costs add up, causing needless waste of already limited tax dollars.

In addition to fiscal costs, restricted access can create dire consequences for the patient, their family and society. The impacts of limiting or prohibiting access to medications are far reaching and include unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration and death. Forcing a patient to switch to a different medication, or to “fail first” without medical cause, is a tremendous step backwards. The more than 600,000 Floridians with mental illnesses deserve the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives through the use of effective medications and treatment.

NAMI Florida looks forward to working with our state leaders to improve the delivery of mental health services in our state. Access to a wide array of medications is vital to reducing overall healthcare expenditures and ensuring the best quality of life for Floridians with mental

illnesses.

Judi Evans

Executive Director,

NAMI Florida, Inc.

Tallahassee

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