Mental Health Reform: The Senate Needs to Act

By Mary Giliberti, J.D. | May. 26, 2016

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Congress is closer to passing mental health reform than it ever has been before, but as the saying goes, “close” only counts in a game of horseshoes. The challenge is whether both the Senate and House of Representatives will act before time runs out and attention shifts almost entirely to the fall election campaigns.

Today, 1 in 5 Americans have a mental health condition. Recovery is possible but at least half of people with mental illness do not get the care they need. Meanwhile the nation’s suicide rate is the highest it’s been in 30 years.   

The good news is that the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) committee has unanimously approved a mental health reform bill, S.2680. The bill is now pending on the Senate calendar, waiting for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring it to a vote by the full Senate. For millions of Americans affected by mental illness, Senator McConnell is currently the man of the hour.

The lead sponsors of S.2680 are HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) It also is supported by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) who are key leaders in efforts for broad reform.

Election year or not, bipartisan support exists for the legislation. Individuals and families affected by mental illness, along with others, are currently calling on all Senators to show their support by contacting the Senate leadership, to bring S. 2680 to a vote soon.

The bill provides a framework for strengthening the nation’s mental health care system. Its provisions:

• Authorize suicide prevention programs.
• Address shortages in the mental health workforce.
• Strengthen enforcement of the mental health insurance parity law.
• Invest in early intervention programs so people get the right care at the right time.
• Promote integration of primary and mental health care.
• Strengthen community crisis response systems.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Republicans and Democrats on the Energy & Commerce are working on bipartisan legislation. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is on record wanting to make a mental health bill a priority for action.

But the expectation is that the Senate needs to act first. The more time that goes by, the smaller the window, especially in an election year. Every voice is needed now to keep the process moving forward. During Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s make the Senators aware that they must act on this critical national issue and pass mental health reform now.

This blog was published in the Huffington Post.

Comments
ron stonitsch
Criminal Justice system should have access,routinely, to records of "involuntary hospitalizations". Often those arrested do not indicate their mental health history which results in incarceration. We have Veteran courts and Substance Abuse courts, We need Mental Health courts too!
1/14/2017 10:13:43 AM

Linda
I don't understand the legislation they want us to contact government officials about. What will it do to community mental health centers? Does anyone know? I'm not an attorney...can't understand the jibberish in the bill. I think they do that so we don't understand til it's passed....like mycare. UGH Thanks folks.
9/2/2016 4:49:24 PM

Linda Thompson.
Mycare is a disaster. If republicans' block grants will keep it, we are in trouble. The democrats want the value based system where the government (medicare and Medicaid) won't pay doctors if they don't agree with their decisions. My daughter is stable on meds and if this changes due to political things such as MYCARE we will all suffer. Crime....hospitalizations....lives lost. Please listen. this is our only chance to save the severely mentally ill who are now stable in mental health centers but won't be when mycare advances to the value based system. God help them. AND US. Crimes come from the severely mentally ill when not in the right treatment and I trust her doctors to provide that as they are and she is stable..NOT POLITICIANS!
8/31/2016 11:24:39 PM

Davo
Police need to undergo far more training to learn to deal with the mentally ill. I've seen people traumatized, criminalized, abused, degraded by police for being mentally ill. More funding, more mental health professionals are needed in the field.
6/11/2016 12:17:47 AM

Xavier Woodard
Undiagnosed Adhd is now effecting me in all areas as an adulthood life..
6/4/2016 11:22:43 AM

Preston Chisum
The article in NAMI online (https://www.nami.org/Blogs/From-the-CEO/May-2016/Mental-Health-Reform-The-Senate-Needs-to-Act#) says that the bill S.2680: "provides a framework for strengthening the nation’s mental health care system. Its provisions: • Authorize suicide prevention programs. • Address shortages in the mental health workforce. • Strengthen enforcement of the mental health insurance parity law. • Invest in early intervention programs so people get the right care at the right time. • Promote integration of primary and mental health care. • Strengthen community crisis response systems." As a case worker in the mental health field for many years, one of the biggest needs that seems to be overlooked is how to provide housing for those individuals who are ambivalent or indifferent about their need for housing because of their symptoms- usually in the case of a psychotic disorder. I do not advocate for "warehousing" but there needs to be more housing available for these individual. The housing needs to incorporate overseers that can remind consumers to take their medications and to protect them from those that prey on them when they do have housing. Are there any groups that are already making progress in getting this issue recognized and financed through governmental support programs?
6/1/2016 5:33:25 PM

Jim J OTOOLE
On congressman Murphy's H.R. 2646 families in mental health crisis Act, section 802 advisory committee should Include mental health consumers so that all stakeholders are included.
5/31/2016 11:18:20 AM

Tina Cline
I'm writing my elected representatives now
5/31/2016 1:35:16 AM

Pat
Lost of monies,wrong meds,wrong diagnosis, doctors not listening to care-givers,loss/stolen of personel belongings in nursing homes, repeated hospitalization/relapses are just some of the things a person-family members experience, not to mention the years lost in a person with mental illness has to deal with when if the right medical was administered from the very beginning. Medical records do not follow a person with mental illness At All!!! The politicians need to look at the total cost of just 12 persons for 5 years with Mental Illness and see the waste in meds which are ordered again each time they go to a hospital and back to a different nursing home, ambulance transportation, doctors, nursing homes. These are just a Tip Off the Ice That my daughter and our family have experienced. The new item is that I am a payee for her SS account and POA but I am not told as to we're she is going or being sent to, in fact I had no idea were she was for 3 months., so we're do I send the check to pay for her care? Don't understand I can speak to Social Security, Medicare,Silver Scripts, CVS CareMark and Public Aid. Also, I have had a problem in just giving these Hospitals/Nursing Homes information-mind you that I do not ask any information at all about my daughter- I am giving them information but they refuse to listen. The HIPPA Law has been a night-mere and getting worse In this case.Why isn't a total medical evaluation done to see what these physic meds are doing to these people physically at least Twice a year in order to make sure that the person has no new illness- Nore this is not beening done! Worried and a tired Parent!!
5/29/2016 1:45:58 PM

Rebecca Duncan
We all need to vote on this very important legislation. Please vote it is more important than you can imagine for there to be proper Mental Health Care.
5/27/2016 11:49:11 AM

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