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Rosalynn Carter and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Headline Annual National Symposium on Mental Health

ATLANTA…During the 29th Annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy on Nov.7-8, 2013, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will join former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter to discuss how access to mental health care could improve with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA).

The invitation-only event, held at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga., draws approximately 200 mental health experts, stakeholders, and providers each year. The general public is invited to watch the live webcast of the symposium at and join in the online discussion with the Center (@CarterCenter) using the hashtag #CarterMH13.

"I often have said that if insurance covered mental illness the way other diseases like cancer or diabetes are covered, there would be less stigma against these diseases, and we all would benefit from healthier mothers, brothers, workers, and friends," said Mrs. Carter. "We hope this year's symposium will give communities throughout the country the information they need to support all of their citizens and help improve life for everyone."

The ramifications of mental illnesses extend far beyond the suffering experienced by one patient and his or her family. Each year, more than $190 billion in earnings are lost from absenteeism and other productivity issues due to untreated or undertreated mental illnesses. Suicide, a potential complication of serious mental illness, is the third leading cause of death for young people and one of the top 10 leading causes of death for all Americans. While even the most severe mental illnesses can be treated effectively, most Americans have less access to mental health and addiction services than they do for other concerns like heart disease.

Landmark mental health insurance parity legislation in 2008 combined with new regulations for mental health as an essential service benefit in the ACA have the opportunity to significantly improve lives and  help reduce overall health care costs. Together, they are extending federal parity protections to 62 million Americans. By ensuring people have access to care early in the onset of a mental illness, more expensive hospital and emergency services can be avoided. More people will be able to stay at work or in school or be able to contribute at a greater level to their families and communities.

However, challenges remain to ensuring that the one-quarter of Americans diagnosed with a mental illness this year will have access to the care they need. A key issue will include integrating mental health and substance use treatment into primary care. Policy experts are unsure that the current behavioral care workforce will be able to meet the increased demand for services.

Symposium Webcast Agenda:
View the full webcast schedule (PDF) >

Editor's Note:
Members of the media are invited to RSVP by Wednesday, Nov. 6, to attend the symposium or the media roundtable. Please contact Paige Rohe at 404-420-5129 or

Media unable to attend in person are invited to tune in to the Carter Center's live-streaming video coverageof the symposium.

Visit to learn more about the Carter Center's Mental Health Program.


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