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