Sweeping Health Care Law Will Boost Mental Health Treatment, How To Talk Like A Midwesterner

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We find out what characteristics make for easily identifiable Midwestern speech. It involves not just how we speak, but also what we say. And we look at the new 21st Century Cures Act just passed by Congress, which will, among many other things, boost mental health and drug treatment programs.

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  • Mental Health Expert Says New Bill Will Accelerate Treatment For Mental Illness Disorders

    A mental health policy expert called the bipartisan bill passed by Congress earlier this week “a major step forward” toward boosting funding for medical research and accelerating the fight against disease.

    Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act on Wednesday. The sweeping piece of legislation accelerates the development of new drugs to fight cancer and is being hailed for its substantial mental health and addiction treatment provisions.

    The act includes mandating equal treatment for mental and physical conditions, making grants available to hire more mental health workers and providing funding to fight the opioid epidemic permeating states across United States.

    President Barack Obama has promised to sign the bill as soon as it arrives on his desk.

    Ron Honberg, senior policy adviser at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the bill represents a good start at addressing mental health and substance abuse disorders.

    “For the first time really, Congress has identified mental health and substance use disorders as a priority and has passed a comprehensive bill to try to address the crisis of untreated mental illness,” Honberg said.

    What’s perhaps most promising, Honberg said, is that the bill emphasizes early identification and intervention of mental illness, particularly among young people. Historically, the health care system has been reactionary to alleviate an immediate crisis and too often involved police and hospitalization.

    Honberg said the act will also expedite the process of developing new drugs without jeopardizing the safety of those who undergo treatment. He added that medical advancement in the mental health field has largely been stagnate and could use the reinvigoration.

    “We desperately need new ways to treat a variety of disorders in this country, including mental illnesses,” he said. “There hasn’t been a new promising medication for treating schizophrenia, for example, in a number of years.”

    Many medical experts have said this level of investment into mental health resources is long overdue, especially given the magnitude of the problem. However, Honberg said the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance abuse – that people who suffer from these conditions are inherently dangerous – and the reluctance by some to share their personal stories, has contributed to the delay.

    “It’s always been one of those conditions that people have sort of laughed about, have sort of tried to avoid talking about,” he said. “And that has translated into (a) lack of adequate attention at federal and state legislative levels.”

    Honberg said there’s always a long way to go from the moment of passage to implementation, but this bill lays down a promising foundation.

  • New Health Care Law Could Boost Mental Health And Addiction Care

    U.S. Congress this week approved sweeping piece of legislation that will boost funding for medical research, accelerate development of new drugs, and fight cancer. But the 21st Century Cures Act is also hailed for its substantial mental health and addiction treatment provisions. We get details.

  • How To Speak Midwestern

    There used to be a notion that Midwesterners – and their speech – were most authentically American. But what does it really mean to speak like a Midwesterner? An exploration of the speech patterns, sayings and accent that define Midwesterners.

  • Author Shares Quirks Of Midwestern Accent

    If you hear someone talking through their nose, or call something “interesting” when when it’s clearly less than desirable, it might be safe to conclude they’re speaking Midwestern, said author Edward McClelland.

    But don’t tell this to Midwesterners – most of whom like to believe they don’t have an accent and that, in fact, they’re speaking the most authentic version of American English. Well, it turns out there’s a pretty good reason why that is.

    In his new book “How To Speak Midwestern,” McClelland explores the origins of the patterns and phrases that make up Midwestern dialogue.

    “I kind of wrote this book to attack the notion that we in the Midwest are the bland middle, that we are the standard, that there is nothing exotic or colorful about us,” he said. “There are many different Midwestern accents and there are all kinds of interesting and quirky phrases that we have in the Midwest that are unfamiliar to any other part of the country.”

    Oddly enough, many Midwesterners like to think of their speech as not only accentless, but the standard. McClelland said that largely stems from John S. Kenyon, an early 20th century accent expert of Hiram College in Ohio. Since Kenyon was from Cleveland, he decided the standard pronunciation should be what he was hearing in northeastern Ohio.

    “So a lot of elements of Midwestern speech were standardized. And this was picked up by NBC and they gave these instructions to their broadcasters,” McClellan said.

    Probably the trademark speech quirk from the Midwest has been what’s called the “short-a” rising. In the most extreme form, cot sounds like cat, block like black and socks like sacks.

    “I think one thing that’s made Midwestern speech a little more distinctive since then has been the rise of the northern cities vowel shift, which is said to be the biggest change in English vowel pronunciation in a 1,000 years,” McClelland said.

    There are variations that run through urban and rural areas, also among ethnicities, immigration waves and generations. But broadly speaking, said McClelland, there are three distinctive dialects. They include: New Englanders migrating west along the Erie Canal; a midland accent spread west by Scotch-Irish, which started in Baltimore and Philadelphia; and the north central accent that’s prevalent in northern Wisconsin, which is derived from Scandinavian and German languages.

    But among all three of those dialects, talking through the nose is the clear common denominator, said McClelland.

    “My tip for speaking Midwestern is to talk as though the lower half of your jaw doesn’t exist,” he said. “Make everything go through your nose.”

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Marika Suval Producer
  • Ron Honberg Guest
  • Edward McClelland Guest

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