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APA Releases Official Positions on Issues Affecting Mental Health in America

  • July 28, 2022

Among the Topics: Psychedelics, Immigration, Structural Racism

Washington, D.C., July 28, 2022 – The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recently released a number of official position statements on a series of major issues affecting mental health for millions of Americans across the country. The statements, approved by APA’s Board of Trustees this month, represent official APA policy on issues of critical importance to mental health in America, including the need for continued research into the use of psychedelics to treat psychiatric disorders, the role of psychiatry in care of patients with HIV, and the mental health needs of immigrants and people affected by forced displacement.

The Position Statement on the Use of Psychedelic and Empathogenic Agents for Mental Health Conditions (.pdf) cites a current lack of adequate scientific evidence to endorse the use of psychedelics on a wide scale, but makes an exception for approved investigational studies. According to the statement, APA officially supports further research and therapeutic discovery into the use of psychedelics, in keeping with integrity and regulatory standards applied to other promising medications.

APA’s official Position Statement on the Impact of Structural Racism on Substance Use and Substance Use Disorders (.pdf) acknowledges the outsized impact substance use and SUDs have in minority communities that experience more severe health consequences than white populations, and calls for healthcare systems to assess, improve and restructure services as needed to ensure communities have equitable access to medication for addiction treatment in all settings. The position also recognizes the unequal impact of U.S. drug policy across racial lines and supports policies that promote equity.

With nearly 80 million affected by forced displacement worldwide, including hundreds of thousands in the U.S., APA’s official Position Statement on the Mental Health Needs of Immigrants and People Affected by Forced Displacement (.pdf) calls for immigrants and refugees to be treated with dignity and respect during all phases of their migration, including access to timely and high-quality health care. The position also calls on healthcare stakeholders, including the government, to identify and address gaps in care for immigrants, and voices opposition to policies that keep displaced people in prolonged detention, separate them from family members, obstruct access to health care, or otherwise erode their dignity, health and wellbeing.

APA’s Position Statement on Level of Care Determinations for Acute Psychiatric Treatment (.pdf) aims to address the poor outcomes often experienced by patients needing inpatient psychiatric care by refocusing Utilization Review (UR) resources to concentrate on patients with high clinical need, psychosocial complexity, histories of repeat admissions, frequent emergency department visits, prolonged inpatient stays, and homelessness or other issues based on social determinants of health. UR is a process conducted by insurers to evaluate a patient’s treatment plan to determine what level of care is necessary.

The official Position Statement on the Role of Psychiatry in HIV (.pdf) reinforces the need to address the mental, as well as physical health needs of patients with HIV and AIDS. HIV is more prevalent in persons with mental illness than in the general population, and psychiatric disorders are more prevalent in persons with HIV.

APA calls for licensed health care and mental health workers to serve as first responders when emergency services are requested for children and adolescents in mental health crisis, rather than law enforcement when possible in their Position Statement on Police Interactions with Children and Adolescents in Mental Health Crisis (.pdf). The position also calls for national standards to protect children and adolescents in mental health crisis against violence from law enforcement.

“As APA we have an important role as the voice of mental health in the house of medicine,” said APA President Rebecca Brendel, M.D., J.D. “These policies, representing the expertise of our 37,000 member psychiatrists, are carefully considered and debated. They guide our strategy on emerging issues that impact countless Americans and people around the world.”

The full text of these position statements, and all official APA positions can be found through APA’s Policy Finder on Psychiatry.org.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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