Unity Health Care applauds President Biden for reiterating the need for bipartisan efforts to address our nation’s ongoing mental health crisis in his State of the Union address. The recent release of the White House Report on Mental Health Research Priorities is a clear demonstration of the Biden administration’s commitment to improving the mental health of Americans. Unity shares the report’s focus on addressing systemwide mental health inequities, supporting and expanding the mental health workforce, and improving treatment for people with serious mental illnesses. As the largest community health center network in the District of Columbia, we provide culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral health services to nearly 10,000 patients per year in the most under-resourced communities. Services include care for depression, anxiety, trauma, serious mental illnesses, and substance use disorder (SUD).
Unity is a patient-centered medical home committed to fully integrating primary care and behavioral health services to ensure coordinated care and seamless transitions for our patients. As the need for SUD treatment grows, our primary care providers are continuously equipped with in-depth, evidence-based training in opioid addiction and SUD to manage, treat, and prevent addiction. Unity has long partnered with local health departments, social service organizations, school systems, and the Department of Corrections, to boost access to comprehensive behavioral health care that evolves with patients’ needs, including innovative ways to provide walk-in SUD training and implementing collaborative care models leveraging a team-based approach. Unity operates the country’s first comprehensive community-oriented correctional health care model that includes integration of behavioral and SUD services. To sustain and expand these dynamic services, there must be more extensive research and investments in evidence-based and trauma-informed care, for those incarcerated and reentering communities.
The demand for mental health care during and after COVID-19 placed behavioral health care providers at risk for increased stress and burnout. As one of the community health centers that played a significant role in the national, state, and local responses to the coronavirus pandemic, Unity continues to stretch resources, and a limited pool of providers, to meet the growing demand for mental health and SUD services. To mitigate this shortage, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation has committed 2.3 million dollars over 2 years to Unity to assist in the recruitment and training of the next generation of mental health providers committed to reducing disparities in mental health care.
Community health centers are a lifeline for millions of Americans across the country. As leaders in integrating medical care, behavioral health, pharmaceutical services, dental care and other services, community health centers are vital in understanding the intersection of the social determinants of health and whole person health. Unity stands ready to partner with The Administration and leaders of both parties in Congress to keep mental health at the forefront of policy and research efforts to effect solutions that improve access and equitable care.