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Mental-Health Care Advocates say ACA Repeal Would Come at a Cost

Experts fear repealing the Affordable Care Act could reduce access to mental health care for those who need it most. (Pixabay)
Experts fear repealing the Affordable Care Act could reduce access to mental health care for those who need it most. (Pixabay)
February 27, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY — Recently, President Donald Trump falsely claimed that the Affordable Care Act covers "very few people,” but one sector of the population stands to be significantly impacted if the GOP succeeds in repealing the law.

Kim Gardner, interim executive director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Utah, said in the first two years since Obamacare went into affect, nearly 127,000 Utahans enrolled in ACA plans. He said that reducing access for folks who need care would have a community-wide impact.

"It's going to have an impact to homelessness, incarceration, job losses,” Gardner said, "because people are not getting the consistent care that they need to help maintain them in a healthy state of recovery."

He said it can take years to establish a successful treatment plan for people in need of mental health care, and a disruption in treatment can prompt behavior that would make it impossible for them to function in society.

Trump's statement about the reach of the ACA came during the annual conservative CPAC conference in Maryland on Friday. According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, some 20 million people nationally have gained coverage since the ACA became law.

According to Gardner, if state and federal governments don't support regular mental health care for those who need it, it will ultimately cost more down the line.

"If we can provide either prevention or early intervention before things become in a crisis state, then the benefit to individuals and families, and communities and taxpayers is so much better,” he said.

Despite progress made in the availability of care, Gardner said many people still live in areas with a shortage of mental health care providers - particularly in rural and economically disadvantaged communities.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT