The Countdown is On: Time to Pass Mental Health in the Senate

AUG. 29, 2016

By Happy Carlock


Twenty-three days.

That’s how long the Senate has to pass mental health reform before heading out the door to campaign. That may seem like enough time to rally support and get Senate leadership to bring S. 2680 to the floor for a vote—but with Election Day on the horizon and countless issues competing for the 114th Congress’s attention in its final weeks, we have no time to lose.

In July, we witnessed a milestone in the history of mental health in America. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2646, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016,” with a 422-2 vote. With those 422 “ayes,” the House said yes to enhancing crisis response services, supporting the mental health workforce and enforcing the federal mental health insurance parity law.

Now it’s the Senate’s turn to act. The Senate is well on its way to passing a similar piece of legislation, the “Mental Health Reform Act of 2016” (S. 2680). This bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), promotes suicide prevention, as well as crisis response services, early intervention and integration of health and mental health care.

S. 2680 has broad support from diverse perspectives within the mental health community. It truly represents a consensus on positive steps toward improving mental health care in America. And the hardest part is over: The Senate already unanimously passed S. 2680 out of committee, which means getting the bill to a floor vote should be seamless.

But S. 2680 faces hurdles from Senate leadership. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has delayed bringing the bill to a vote despite its widespread approval. Meanwhile, nearly 43,000 Americans die by suicide each year. The Senate has the opportunity to lower that number by passing legislation that would infuse resources into suicide prevention measures across the country.

With our grassroots power, NAMI got the House to bring mental health reform to a vote. We have the ability to do it again—this time in the Senate. But with just a few short weeks left for the Senate to act, time is of the essence.

One voice can make a difference. Thousands of voices create a movement. All it takes is one phone call, one in-person meeting with your Senator, one targeted tweet at the Senate leadership to make your voice heard alongside tens of thousands of other NAMI members.

At NAMI, we don’t wait for change to happen; we make it happen. That's why this Friday, September 2nd, we're having a National Call-In Day. Join us, and take two minutes out of your day to call your senators and tell them to demand a vote on S. 2680 now.

Call (202) 224-3121
Press #1
Enter your zip code

Here's our suggested message: "As a constituent of the Senator’s, I would like him/her to demand a vote on S. 2680, the Mental Health Reform Act. The House passed Mental Health Reform 422-2. The Senate should act. There is a mental health crisis in this country. This bill will help. Thank you."

It is time for the Senate to stop treating mental health reform as a political issue and treat it as the crucial and timely public health issue that it is.


SEP, 15, 2016 05:54:38 PM
Linda Warren
Please vote YES for true Mental Health parity. I have just spent the past 6 months being tossed around between Kaiser's psychiatry and endocrinology and emergency departments because no one wanted to take responsibility for my hypothyroidism that was apparently caused by an initial Rx of Thyroid medication to try to boost me out of a depression many years ago. Unfortunately, over the years that thyroid med has rendered my thyroid gland almost useless. It took me months to get an endocrinologist to work with me to slowly taper me off the thyroid med instead of just dropping me off it after a couple of weeks which landed me in the ER practically in a coma. Then the ER physician gave me too much thyroid med and I became hyperthyroid and manic and landed back in the ER.
So what I'm trying to get at is I'm ONE PERSON, IN ONE BODY AND BRAIN/MIND, PLEASE START TREATING ME AS SUCH! MY BIPOLAR BRAIN DOES NOT LIVE OUTSIDE OF MY PHYSICAL BODY! What the physical meds for thyroid, etc. do for my physical body also react with my mind. I don't know why the medical insurance people can't get that through their heads. Oh, I forgot it's all about the cost isn't it? It doesn't matter how it makes me feel; that it may make me suicidal? That is just collateral damage to the insurance industry.

So much for feeling like I can return and be a contributing member of society ever again when I'm treated like just one of the dogs that roams the neighborhoods where these insurance executives lives. Heck, I couldn't even get a blanket in the ER at Kaiser Roseville; by the time I left there in the morning I had 8 half-twin-size sheets on me, but no one would ever bring me a blanket until just before I was discharged. People wonder why those of us with mental health diagnosis are afraid to go to the ER, ETC., it's exactly because of instances like this where we have all control taken from us and then we are treated as less than...

I'm truly afraid of ever telling anyone that I may be unsafe, I'll just keep myself at home and try to get myself through any crisis I come across.

Please vote!

SEP, 13, 2016 03:41:50 PM
Betty Robertson
Time is running out for the Senate to vote and the bill has not even been introduced. How long must we wait? With hospital beds being drastically cut and community mental health programs being underfunded, jails and prisons are becoming the in facto treatment sites with little or no treatment. Homelessness is also increasing.

SEP, 06, 2016 07:30:16 AM
Karin Gravelle
Mental health care is a crisis for everyone. Anyone in need needs access.

SEP, 03, 2016 05:55:14 PM
Pamela Hammond
I didn't know about this until today (Saturday) but I did call both of AL senators as outlined & left the message w my # to return call.

SEP, 02, 2016 03:25:06 PM
I called and asked for senator reeds vote on mental health reform

SEP, 01, 2016 09:41:03 PM
Who were the 2 no votes? And why? We should know!

SEP, 01, 2016 11:18:19 AM
Jack Glenn
I called Senator Burr's office to express support for the Senate bill. There actually are many. I was received graciously and attentively. One person, however, does not make as great an impression as many. If mental illness is to achieve parity we who want equivalent attention have to make as much noise as those who feel oppressed by higher taxes or taxes not high enough!

SEP, 01, 2016 07:08:34 AM
Let's get it done

AUG, 31, 2016 05:07:54 PM
J. H.
Many cans of whoop-ass being readied to unload on Mitch McConnell if he bars this bill from the overwhelming approval awaiting it in the full Senate.

AUG, 30, 2016 11:12:31 PM
John Kozicki
Thank you for all of your great work.

AUG, 30, 2016 06:16:14 PM
Jerri Escobedo
Please as a constituent of the Senator's vote yes for S.2680 and yes 422-2 reform Mental Health Act has passed. It is soooo very important to hurting people c and families everywhere. We truly need this will help in so may crisis situation. Please help. Thank you. Bless you all.

AUG, 29, 2016 06:08:37 PM
What kind of crisis response services are called for in this bill?

AUG, 29, 2016 11:54:59 AM
Cheri VanSant
Families like ours have watched our loved ones be horribly mistreated in our current mental health system. These are not mental health issues. Our lived ones have serious neurological brain disorders that are destroying their lives, and bankrupting their families. Please vote NOW!!!!

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