Friday, November 25, 2016

Senate agrees to pass lame duck mental health reform bill

(11/25/16) Today, a healthcare reform package, including language from Congressman Tim Murphy’s (PA-18) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnsons (D. TX) Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) and Chairman Fred Upton’s 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6), was finalized. The reform package will be voted on in the Senate when they return after Thanksgiving and will then have to be reconciled with what the House passed, presumably a fait acompli. I believe it also includes language from Sen. John Cornyn's S2002.

A copy of the bill is here 

There is AOT funding and reform of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the bill.  Here are the provisions we were most interested in having included. Some were, others were not.


Congressman Murphy  has been the true hero of this process leaving his door open to, and never abandoning those of us who have seriously mentally ill relatives. He released the  following statement:



“This is a landmark moment. The federal government’s course in addressing mental health and illness in America is being fundamentally changed. Congress has finally come together in a bipartisan effort to bring serious mental illness out of the shadows. Now federal agencies will be moving from feel-good programs for behavioral wellness to ones that emphasize evidence-based care for those at highest risk and those with symptoms of serious mental illness. We've achieved long-sought reforms by creating an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use to elevate, integrate and coordinate programs; investing in services for the most difficult to treat cases; expanding the mental health workforce, and so much more.“It couldn't be more fitting that we've reached this bipartisan agreement between the House and Senate at the close of Thanksgiving week. I am tremendously grateful for everyone who joined in the cause because we wouldn't be here if not for the unwavering efforts of the of the families, caregivers, providers and organizations that worked tirelessly to fix our broken mental health systemWe won't solve it all in in one bill and we didn't get everything we needed, but we needed everything we got. It is my pledge to the patients and families in crisis that I will never stop fighting to deliver treatment before tragedy for those most in need.” 

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act unanimously passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, 53-0, in June and passed the U.S. House of Representatives, 422-2, in July More information on the bill can be found here.


Mental Illness Policy Org thanks the thousands of families of the seriously ill who  joined with us to educate Congress that the needs of the seriously ill are different than those of the higher functioning, and that those needs have largely been ignored by government. By focusing SAMHSA on the seriously ill, funding Assisted Outpatient Treatment and looking for ways to free families of the seriously ill from HIPAA Handcuffs that prevent them from facilitating treatment, we believe the lives of all Americans--those with serious mental illness and those without--will be better served. - DJ Jaffe, Executive Director, Mental Illness Policy Org.

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