Beyond the Presidential Race: Voters Address Mental Health Issues

November 4, 2020
Paul Gleason, PhD

In addition to choosing a president and other political leaders, Americans cast their votes on a host of issues relevant to psychiatrists.

The presidential election is not over. But around the nation, voters have made their voices heard on numerous down-ballot issues directly related to psychiatry and mental health. In this election round-up, Psychiatric TimesTM highlights a sampling of propositions, measures, and initiatives that may change mental health treatment for years to come. 

Paid family and medical leave

Voters in Colorado passed Proposition 118. One of the most progressive laws of its kind in the country, it requires that employers offer 12 weeks of paid time off for childbirth, emergencies, and other medical issues.

“I’m so proud that Colorado is the first state to do this on the ballot,” said Colorado State Senator Faith Winter. “We’ve always had stories of moms going back to work within two weeks of giving birth and cancer patients skipping chemotherapy to keep their jobs.” This law could reduce financial stressors for many patients, and eligible clinicians who can take advantage of family and medical leave may be less susceptible to burnout.

Medical marijuana

The use of cannabis for mental health purposes remains controversial among psychiatrists, but 2 additional states have approved cannabis use for medical use. The state of Mississippi appears to have passed a medical marijuana measure by more than a 2-to-1 margin. South Dakota voters passed a ballot measure that authorizes medical marijuana and, at the same time, an amendment that also allows recreational marijuana use.

The adoption of both at once is unprecedented, noted Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “No state has ever moved from marijuana prohibition to allowing both medical use and adult-use access, quite literally, overnight,” he said.

Psychedelic mushrooms

Oregon appears to be the first state that will allow the use of psilocybin (the active ingredient in so-called “magic mushrooms”) for mental health purposes. Ronan Levy of Field Trip Health, a Canadian company that uses psychedelics in psychotherapy, imagined that the new law could open doors to many new treatments. “There’s almost no mental health condition right now that’s not being looked at,” he said.

At the Annual Psychiatric TimesR World CME ConferenceTM, Shannon Carlin, MA, AMFT, covered the research on hallucinogenic psychedelics and their potential efficacy.

Abortion

Former president of the American Psychiatric Association, Nada Stotland, MD, MS, has argued that abortion should be a real issue for psychiatrists. “Access to this important aspect of women’s health care is vital not only to all women around the world,” she said, “but particularly to our patients.”

Colorado voters rejected Proposition 115, which would have outlawed abortions after 22 weeks. In Louisiana voters amended the state constitution, saying that the state neither protects abortion rights nor requires abortion funding.