Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Health Care Reform & PRISM Awards

If you don’t know anything specific about the health care reform law you probably have been entertained by media reporting because it has provoked powerful debate and speculation among our policy makers on Capitol Hill. Is health care reform right? Is it wrong? Is it constitutional? As the debate goes on and the constitutionality is tested, the opposing sides seem to get further and further apart, and many people began to forget that it’s about health and wellness, the preservation of sound bodies and minds, and not just about who’s right or wrong. As far as entertainment programming and media goes, there is an opportunity to point to the reform elements as it may affect individual lives.

There’s a correlation of elements of the health care law (if it continues after the repeals and the battle in courts…) that mirror some elements of the PRISM Awards. For example, EIC spotlights mental health (almost half of the 14th Annual PRISM submissions were on the topic of mental health), and the new law includes provisions for mental health. Some of the provisions being the following:

• A five-year pilot program in Medicaid to fund medical homes for people with psychiatric disabilities;
• Set minimum requirements regarding services that health plans must cover including mental health and substance abuse services, and new adaptations for preexisting conditions;
• Developing a national strategy to increase research into effective prevention strategies and expanding prevention services, including attention to mental health, to be implemented at the community level;
• Increased access to services that can prevent diabetes, heart disease and cancer greatly improve the lives of people with severe mental illnesses.

These provisions also reflect a topic that I think gets lost in the technicalities: connecting the head and the body into one whole person! For many years, government spending has separated the head and the body in terms of advocacy, research and treatment. Mental health and physical health have been placed on different platforms. These provisions recognize that one’s overall health will benefit by recognizing and treating the whole individual. EIC strives to connect mental health and physical health, often by reinforcing the reality that addiction is a brain disease often accompanied by co-occurring physical and mental ramifications, and sometimes vice versa. Maybe you feel that health care reform hasn’t done anything right, that it is all wrong, but at least it’s brought valuable awareness to the co-occurring circumstances of mental health and physical health melding into one living human being.

There are no easy solutions to making the general audience aware of the implications of this massive 2,074 page law. However, through the unique quality of the entertainment industry’s creative process audiences can gain several perspectives, as portrayed by the characters and stories told. This year’s PRISM Awards showcased multiple works in the entertainment industry that demonstrated this, while still entertaining their audience. One production to receive a PRISM Award this year was The Soloist, for displaying the devastating effects of a mental illness as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx’s characters. USA Network’s comedy series Monk also picked up a PRISM Award, for its use of comedy to portrayal mental health. Other PRISM winners that highlighted mental health were Rosie O’Donnell for her role in America, and episodes of Law and Order and Dr. Phil.

Through movies, television shows and even comic books you get a wide range of stories based on health and social issues, and the realization that sometimes it’s okay to not be okay…and certainly wading through the law might be one of those occasions. Again, uniquely the entertainment industry has the creative ability to foster messages that lawmakers and politicians may not, which is why it’s important we work together to distill information in a manner that can be understood.

The way EIC and the PRISM Awards spotlights mental health and the fact that there are provisions for mental health in the reform law shows that we’re at least making connections that health is health is health. Let’s continue to deal with the whole person. Let’s not separate the mind and body.

Click the following link for more information on this year's 14th Annual PRISM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-XxRHdpz8Q Awards
Posted by Brian Dyak, CEO/President, Entertainment Industries Council, Inc.