New Mental Health Reform Bill in the Mix: Action Must Follow

By Mary Giliberti, J.D. | Feb. 03, 2016

A new bill, The Comprehensive Behavioral Health and Recovery Act of 2016 (H.R. 4435), has been introduced by House Democrats in Congress. This bill joins the bipartisan H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015, which had a lengthy hearing in November 2015. NAMI is pleased to see the additional call for reform of our country’s mental health system, but action needs to follow. People living with mental illness and families are tired of waiting on the sidelines.

The Comprehensive Behavioral Health and Recovery Act of 2016 includes a number of provisions designed to improve the availability of quality mental health services and supports, including:

  • Repeal of the discriminatory 190 day lifetime limit on coverage of psychiatric hospital stays in Medicare.
  • Grants to establish assertive community treatment (ACT) programs, an evidence-based program with proven effectiveness in reducing hospitalizations, homelessness and arrests.
  • Regulations that clarify when it’s permissible or not permissible for providers to share limited mental health information.
  • Strengthening enforcement of the federal mental health parity law.
  • Supporting early identification and intervention in the treatment of first episodes of psychosis.

Both Republican and Democratic leaders have spoken frequently about the need for federal mental health reform and House Speaker Paul Ryan has identified it as a priority. There is strong bipartisan support in Congress for comprehensive mental health reform—a significant acknowledgment both of the importance of mental health care and that our nation’s mental health system is broken and must be fixed.

What is needed now is for the House Energy & Commerce Committee to “mark up” comprehensive mental health reform and bring it to a vote by the full House of Representatives. This would allow for an open debate on how to best reform our broken system, with all members able to offer their ideas.

Everyone—both Democrats and Republicans—should play as a team and get a win for the millions of Americans who live with mental illness and families by passing bipartisan mental health reform.

You can help. The season for action in Congress is short, so don’t sit on the sidelines and watch mental health reform fumble. Sign up for NAMI advocacy alerts and contact your members of Congress. We need a victory for mental health today.

Comments
Sherry Simpson Freeman
My son is mentally ill and in jail again! He has been in and out of juvenille detention centers, wilderness schools, YDC, Jails, and prisons since he was 13 , now he's 39! He can't function out here without meds and counciling, but I have ask for help from the state of Georgia all his life to put in his parole and probation papers that he has to take meds and go to mental health center to no avail! I can't get them them to understand he doesn't do things on purpose , he is sick. It is hereditary, he didn't ask for it! I am his mom and I am Bipolar and have fought my whole life to try to get people to understand the stigma of mental illness is so bad. The police, the Drs. and Nurse's and anyone who finds out you are bipolar or have any other mental illness treats you so disrespectful and like you are not human! We deserve as much respect as anyone else! I am trying to get my son help now. He says that "He will kill himself before he goes back to prison. What does a MOTHER DO?" I do hope they pass a bill that gets the mentally ill help instead of prison! It just makes them sicker and more paranoid of getting any help!
8/4/2016 12:55:59 PM

TABATHA KENDRICK
I have Schezaprehnia plus Severe anxiety Disorder cause from Birth....genetic, biplogical, and Neurtrasmitters. It isn't our fault not matter how many people want to put pressure on your or blame you for trial things. I had no help coming out of intense care and the judges involved were not happy with my fames lack of support and they specifically told my sister that I should have had a Cargiver after coming out of Intensive care! Even family members will abandon you amd put blame in you for things your doctor and judges already know way before they do!
2/23/2016 7:52:22 AM

Bev Hamel
Our mental health care system is broken and it needs to be fixed. Dramatically.I too have been inside the system as a caregiver for my daughter. We live in a community that claims to have all the resources but after more then 70 trips to the Er for a mental health crisis, 5 hospitalizations, 10 arrests directly related to the mental health crisis and subsequent jail time - where the judge said - she is either immediately placed in an institution or spends 60 days in jail. Of course that was impossible because she was already in jail and her doctors could not find any legal way to have her committed. I won't go into the horrors or the crisis control lines or CIT - Community Intervention teams which arrested her. Sadly my state of NC continuously gives lip service to the needs of Mental Health reform but then cut back the budgets and close the doors. Even the hospitals have closed doors on wards and Er doctors have their hands tied. On one of the last visits to the Er - my daughter was refused treatment and told to leave the Er after she had been seen by the Dr's who were quite aware of needing to call me. An ER law officer told her to get out or she would have her arrested.
The main agency which could have helped her can't because of her IQ is one point higher and she gets $17.00 too much in disability. She is only 25 and I am her legal guardian. The problems began after she finished school - a special public school for Iike children - but even this is gone because the school system no longer singles special needs children out though they our entitled through the age of 22. I have had so many doors slammed in my face over the years since her first diagnosis of Autism at 3 but I also have found hope. The last two years have been sheer hell. Through finally having her medication adjusted as well as finally regulated she is making drastic improvements. I also have found a wonderful Peer group, and volunteer services for her, as well as other guided day to day plans. How long will it last - I don't know but I am grateful every day for when she smiles I will continue to fight battles and climb mountains to keep her that way.
2/10/2016 10:07:54 PM

Mark Zanger
As a NAMI member and active volunteer, I am surprised to see national NAMI advocating passage of HR 2646, which the national organization has up until very recently been cautious about. I am very cautious because the bill as written is extremely divisive between "serious mental illness" and "mental Illness" essentially setting up enormous cutbacks in services for people with not-so-serious mental illness, marginalizing social workers who have brought a more wholistic view into treatment, and narrowing the treatment focus to proven treatments as approved by psychiatrists and psychologists -- which will be more medicine and less talk unless I am much mistaken.

There are positive aspects of the bill, and a full debate might improve it, but an advocacy call to pass it now would divide NAMI, and if the bill passes in its present partisan form, harm millions of people living with illness, and drive their family members and treaters, well, you know, mad.

--Mark Zanger
Dorchester-Mattapan-Roxbury NAMI, Boston, MA
2/8/2016 11:21:09 PM

Christina Bateman
I've been inside the core of our mental health care systems; I know how broken it is. We can increase accessibility and funding for services, but if we don't improve the quality of that care, it's all for nothing. Right night the dilemma is the over and unauthorized use and abuse of anti psychotic medications. Patients are often over sedated, and thus non-participatory in therapy. Their right to self determination completely ignored. Then patients are discharged often in worse shape than at admission. Individuals are then less likely to seek help during times of severe crisis if this is the help that is available.
2/6/2016 8:26:39 PM

J
It looks like a few politicians have finally realized that Mad people will rebel against "caregivers' rights" laws that aim to railroad them into psychiatry. A lot of people seem to have forgotten that caregivers can't have their own "rights" because if those "rights" existed, they would necessarily be coupled with obligations on certain people to assume the "duties" that are involved in depending on these caregivers, regardless of whether these "charges" need or want the care that's being forced onto them. It's Constitutional heresy and career suicide for any politician to pass laws which make people needier and more circumscribed than they have to and ought to be. Neither the "pursuit of science" nor "family values" are important enough reasons for shredding the civil rights and liberties of Mad people or ANY American citizen. As of right now, I support this new bill 100%.
2/5/2016 11:29:46 AM

Ann Davison
I am a mental health professional and have worked as a psychiatric nurse for over 30 years in the states of Missouri and Iowa. I have witnessed the shut down of 2 state mental health institutes in the southern tier of Iowa by the governor of Iowa, creating a huge gap in the delivery of care. People in need of a safe and secure environment during an acute psychiatric crisis are left with no resources. The community based programs are extremely effective except when inpatient hospitalization is required to obtain stability. The governor promoted closing the MHI to save the state money. Now there is a huge gap in available treatment.
2/5/2016 7:11:42 AM

Christina Drews
I agree the system is very bad for mental health. stigma is very bad we need too educate more people about mental illnesses. and not put people with mental illnesses in jails instead we need more treatment facilities. police need more education on people with mental illness for sure.
2/5/2016 1:23:18 AM

tanya marinelli
Please help to give better quality of care to the mentally ill in hospital setting and better quality of housing. And please keep families together that suffer from a mental illness too. Search for change needs to have better quality housing and care for the mentally ill. Please keep families together such as single moms and their young children too.
2/4/2016 9:51:25 AM

Sheryl Yates
I have a daughter who suffers with significant Mental Health issues and in the rural state of Wyoming we are lacking in so many services and appropriate facilities to help those in need. I want this to pass and many more items. We cannot do enough to help those who suffer quietly until they explode. An example is there are not enough facilities for step down from crisis or trauma facilities. Here many are just dumped on a local church or mission with no real plans or facilities to help the individual.
2/3/2016 9:13:28 PM

Tamera Palomino
Unity is paramount mental health has been overlooked many years. The sigma attached to this subject. Breaking down barriers is a good place to start.
2/3/2016 8:52:56 PM

Laura
I like what I see so far compared to the earlier bill which left room for huge privacy loopholes. However, I need to know far more about the bill before I could support it.

"Assertive" community treatment? And what sort of intervention? The earlier bill mentioned letting court judges mandate inpatient treatment! The system is definitely broken but please let's be CAREFUL with reform not to RUSH to some compromise that leaves open doors to an even WORSE system. It's scary enough as it is. Families need support sure, but not at the cost of patients' rights. Ease of access should be primary goal. Most people who are ill would seek help if it were not so SCARY and DAUNTING a process. Sometimes I wish I hadn't started treatment even though I realize I needed it, because being in this "system" can MAKE one FEEL insane!
2/3/2016 8:12:59 PM

Johnny Lynn
I am bipolar. This illness has caused many troubles in my 56 years. I am one of the lucky ones who finally cot the correct diagnosis and treatment plan which I am sticking to. I just think more can and should be done to help patients, friends, families and the general population to learn about mental illness and
provide the help needed in this large population of our country.
2/3/2016 3:52:28 PM

Diana Lozano
Please lets do this together! We need bipartisan support on this very important subject affecting our mentally ill loved ones.
They deserve it and now is the time!!
2/3/2016 3:37:44 PM

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