The American College of Sports Medicine and the Society of Behavioral Medicine recently released a new statement supporting increased coverage of exercise programming by health plans for individuals with mental illnesses. The brief, titled “Increase United States Health Plan Coverage for Exercise Programming in Community Mental Health Programs for People with Serious Mental Illness,” includes an assessment of current policies and recommends policy actions to state and federal policy makers, allied health professionals and state and federal mental health administrators.
“Exercise improves both mental and physical health while reducing health care costs. However, these benefits often do not reach consumers who need them the most,” said Jim Whitehead, CEO of the American College of Sports Medicine. “Exercise can reduce the public health burden of the medical conditions of individuals who are treated primarily in community mental health programs.”
Some of the brief’s key recommendations include creating a definition for evidenced-based exercise programming for people with serious mental illness, expanding health care services for people with serious mental illness to specify exercise programming as a reimbursable service through mechanisms in the Affordable Care Act for health promotion, clearly specifying standards of professional accreditation or competency to deliver exercise programming to people with serious mental illness and increasing the range of disciplines of licensed/certified allied and mental health professionals who are eligible for reimbursement to deliver exercise programming in mental health settings.
“Ensuring access to exercise programs for this vulnerable population is critically important,” said SBM President Marian Fitzgibbon, Ph.D. “Exercise is a first-line and often underutilized strategy for improving health outcomes. It’s also a key strategy for preventing health issues in the first place. This saves lives and dollars.” To read the full paper, please visit the SBM website.