behavioral health / behavioural health

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behavioral health / behavioural health

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Nov 10, 2013 7:42 am

While listening to a sound clip from a speech being delivered by Kathleen Sebelius which was being reported on NPR (National Public Radio) a couple of days ago, I was surprised to hear her use the term 'behavioral health' instead of 'mental health' in relation to the expanded health coverage that will be provided under the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). An account of the speech appears in a long article on the CNN website, from which I quote:
In a move aimed at boosting mental health treatment, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday announced new rules that will put teeth in a 2008 mental health equity law.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, signed by President George W. Bush, requires doctors and insurers to treat mental illness the same as physical illness.

Sebelius made the announcement to applause at the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in Atlanta.

The move "finally puts mental health and behavioral health on equal footing," Sebelius said.

[...]

The "incredibly important law, combined with the Affordable Care Act, will expand and protect behavioral health benefits for more than 62 million Americans," Sebelius said. "People who either have insurance coverage now and have no mental health coverage or where the Affordable Care Act fills in those gaps for people who have no insurance at all, they will be able to access affordable care with mental health and substance abuse benefits."

She called it "the largest expansion of behavioral health benefits in a generation."
Maybe I haven't been paying proper attention, but I had not noticed the emergence of this term until that speech.

When I later asked my wife about it (she once had an administrative job working in a hospital), she said that the term covers more than mental health, encompassing such areas as addiction, substance abuse and developmental disorders that affect mental functioning.

The explanations of the term I have found on the Web have tended to be rather nebulous and variable; perhaps this reflects an evolution in the way it is being used. To my mind, it has a rather euphemistic Orwellian ring, although I can see that as synonyms go, 'mental health' is rather restrictive.
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