PPA Stands In Support of Suicide Prevention Awareness
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Posted by: Justin Fleming
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Psychological Association President Dr. David Rogers today was a featured speaker during a "Suicide Prevention Awareness Day" event at the State Capitol organized by the Pennsylvania Adult/Older Adult Suicide Prevention Coalition. His remarks can be found below.
Remarks for “Suicide Prevention Awareness Day”
PA Capitol Rotunda
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Dr. David Rogers, PA Psychological Association President
Thank you so much Govan for inviting me to join you today. My name is Dr. David Rogers and I am a psychologist in private practice here in the Capitol Region. I also serve as President of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association. On behalf of nearly 6,000 licensed psychologists statewide, I want to commend each and every one of you on being here today and raising awareness for suicide, and more importantly suicide prevention. The work being done by the Pennsylvania Adult/Older Adult Suicide Prevention Coalition is invaluable.
There is so much I could reflect upon and say today but as a mental health practitioner, I want to talk about the wide disparity in how we continue to view physical health care and mental health care in society. While the reasons vary, what is clear is that there is a societal expectation for everyone who needs it to receive physical health care. However, still we do not view mental health treatment in the same way. The numbers may be skewed given this audience, but how many of you have suggested that a friend or loved one who may be struggling see a mental health professional? For most people who are dealing with difficult mental health issues, they hear a familiar refrain: “What’s wrong with you?” “Get over it.” “Everybody has problems.”
This approach is wrong-headed and irresponsible, and changing that approach begins with us and the people in this building. The statistics verify that all of us either have or will present with a mental health challenge, at some point in our life and/or certainly know people who do. Given that fact, you would think it would be easy to make substantive changes to funding around mental health delivery services but as we all know in the health care continuum, mental health care is often given a lower priority. We need to compel legislators, executive branch officials and Governor Wolf to achieve true parity and make mental health services a priority!
Fortunately, advocacy groups like yours, the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Pennsylvania Physical Health/Behavioral Health Learning Community and others are working to change the current climate in the Commonwealth and gain parity for mental with physical health. Every single day family physicians and other doctors are seeing patients for physical health issues who have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Unfortunately, the legal requirements in the Mental Health Procedures Act (which was passed 40 years ago in 1976), the accompanying regulatory requirements, and rules governing insurance reimbursement are not set up for an individual to receive integrated and comprehensive physical and behavioral health care.
For example, psychologists at Geisinger Medical Center are providing mental health services for low-income patients in their emergency department, inpatient medical units, and inpatient psychiatric units but have not been reimbursed by the insurance company which covers low-income Pennsylvanians. The company claims that they need approval from the PA Department of Human Services to pay for these. Could you imagine the outcry if an insurance company refused to pay doctors for seeing patients with heart disease, diabetes, or a broken leg? Because of the way behavioral health care is viewed societally, insurance companies feel emboldened to deny payment to save money. This is unacceptable and we need to fight these efforts.
Another initiative for which we need to advocate is access to telehealth services, specifically around mental health care. Pennsylvania is a large state and unfortunately access to care can be difficult to obtain in rural areas around the state due to the lack of professionals in those areas. Right now, there are legislative initiatives that have been introduced to expand telehealth services in the Commonwealth. We thank Representative Marguerite Quinn and Senator Elder Vogel for putting forth legislation to address the issue and fill that gap. Making mental health care more accessible can yield results in terms of treating individuals who may be contemplating suicide.
Part of the reason the issue of suicide prevention is so passionate for me is that over my 35 years of practice, I have had the great privilege of serving with, within, beside the law enforcement community and have also had the privilege of serving as a consultant and contracted psychologist for the Pennsylvania State Police for the last decade. Over those years, many of my patients who have served in the law enforcement community have also seen and struggled with the effects suicide has on those contemplating it and those left behind. Sadly, but not surprisingly, suicide strikes very close to the home of the law enforcement community as well.
In fact, In the last full study on law enforcement suicide conducted in 2012 and published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health there were at that time reported 126 police suicides which, at the time, represented a rate over 50% higher than the national average. While a full study has not been conducted since then, it appears as though both the number of suicides and the rate has fallen.
However, given the nature of work for law enforcement personnel and other emergency responders – as well as our returning veterans – we know that they are at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health challenges. And thankfully, unlike the olden days, it seems as though leaders in the emergency response workforce are increasingly recognizing the need for crisis counseling and other mental health interventions to ensure that police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel are getting the help that they need.
In conclusion, thank you. Thank you so much for the work that you do and the commitment and compassion that you display each and every day. It has been an honor to see you today, and please know that the Pennsylvania Psychological Association is proud to stand with you as a partner in service to individuals and families affected by suicide. Thank you.
 Information taken from www.policesuicidestudy.com.