It is an honor and a pleasure to share this important document: " From Exclusion to Belonging: Transforming Mental Health Care in America." Americans know all too well the human and financial costs and burdens of mental health conditions—to individuals and families as well as to communities and States. Now we are thankfully and finally at a turning point in America—one where we have come to recognize and embrace three fundamental principles at the core of our vision for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), "A Life in the Community for Everyone."
The first of these principles is that prevention efforts which embrace the natural resiliency of Americans are not only possible, but incredibly effective in reducing the incidence and severity of mental disorders. Second is that individuals with mental illnesses, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders can and do recover. When they take that brave step toward seeking help and the right services and treatment take hold, the bright promise of recovery can unfold. The third is that we are taking bold action on the long-neglected need to design, construct, improve, and sustain a humane and efficient mental health promotion and service delivery infrastructure. The mental health care system is today being forever changed through the twin goals of building resiliency and promoting recovery and through a strong Federal commitment to partner with allies to lead the way toward transformation.
The transformation of the mental health care system began with President Bush's vision of hope and equality. As a presidential candidate, he pledged to "tear down" barriers to equality that exclude many of the 54 million Americans with mental and physical disabilities. Shortly after his inauguration, the President established the New Freedom Initiative to eliminate inequality for all Americans with disabilities. On April 29, 2002 in Albuquerque, he launched the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, as an essential part of the New Freedom Initiative. Beginning with the full support of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, and continuing under the leadership of Secretary Michael Leavitt, I have had both the honor and the privilege of working to make the President’s vision a reality through the Federal Action Agenda on Mental Health.
Today recovery from mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders is no longer the privilege of a few exceptional people, but a possibility for all. We stand now at what the Tipping Point calls that "magic moment" when minds and hearts are changed, when "radical change is more than a possibility, it is a certainty."
With new Federal leadership charting the course, and the vision of mental health care transformation lighting the way, more and more Americans with mental illnesses are stepping out of the shadows of hopelessness, stigma, and exclusion, and are at long last receiving the care, respect, and belonging which they deserve.
Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.