Massachusetts has been a leader in healthcare reform as being the first state to take steps to move towards universal healthcare. There is more work to be done on this front to keep healthcare costs down. For me, supporting access to mental health services has been a priority for me. Massachusetts now has some of the strongest mental health parity laws in the country thanks to a recent passage of major mental health reform bill, meaning that our healthcare providers must treat mentall illnesses the same as a physical illness from a billing perspective. We also established the 988 phone number for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, guaranteed mental health exams expanded access to mobile crisis units, clarified that 26 year olds can stay on their parent's insurance if they have a disability and made large investments in the mental health workforce while also expanding youth behavioral services. However, there is much more work to be done. I have also been a strong supporter of our community hospitals and will continue to support Sturdy Memorial Hospital in whatever way I can.
We also passed a reproductive rights access bill in the Commonwealth that guaranteed that reproductive procedures are a right and that no co-pay or deductible can be charged for these services. We also guaranteed amnesty for those seeking these procedures from other states where a woman could be prosecuted for receiving these services. We will continue to support a woman's right to choose.
We have also offered legislation to allow spouses to serve as independent care givers and have worked with the AARP on this bill. The current system for providing and funding long term services and supports (LTSS) is largely uncoordinated, fragmented, and costly. The majority of services are provided by unpaid family caregivers. We know families and friends need access to assistance so they are not unreasonably burdened and can continue to provide care. Caregiver assistance should include education and training, counseling, legal consultations, respite care, adult day services, programs that help individuals pay relatives and friends who provide care, and other types of help. As the country continues to age, the need to support caregivers as the cornerstone of society will only become more and more important. Today, more than 1 in 5 Americans are caregivers, having provided care to an adult or child with special needs at some time in the past 12 months. This totals an estimated 53 million adults in the United States, up from the estimated 43.5 million caregivers only five years ago in 2015. More than 844,000 Bay State residents are caring for aging parents or loved ones, helping them live independently in their own homes and communities, which is where most want to live. The total value of unpaid care provided to individuals in need of long-term services in Massachusetts amounts to more than $11 billion every year and is $470 billion nationwide. We must provide for our caregivers.