Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Mental Health Reform is a Law

DEC. 14, 2016

By Happy Carlock


“Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours” is not just the chorus in President Barack Obama’s favorite song that makes you want to dance. It’s what took place Dec. 13, when President Obama signed mental health reform into law as part of H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act.

Mental health reform is now ours.

The work of thousands of NAMI advocates has paid off. Congress heard NAMI’s voice through hundreds of thousands of phone calls, emails and tweets, and they answered. Now, more Americans will have access to the mental health care they need.

NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti and Director of Legislative Advocacy Andrew Sperling were at the White House for the 21st Century Cures signing ceremony. Giliberti calls this achievement a major step in the right direction for the mental health community and Congress.

“This was anything but a lame duck session,” Giliberti said. “The House and Senate vote counts showed overwhelming support for the cause that we all hold so dear.”

Even the president recognized the significance of this bill passing Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support: “I think it indicates the power of this issue and how deeply it touches every family across America. The Cures Act improves mental health care,” Obama explained. “It includes bipartisan reforms to address serious mental illness, it takes steps to ensure mental health conditions, and substance abuse are fairly treated by insurance companies. It also incorporates suicide prevention.”

How Will the Law Help People with Mental Illness?

The law includes key pieces of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016 (H.R. 2646), the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680), and the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015 (S. 2002). The Cures Act will improve integration and program coordination across federal agencies that serve people with mental illness and remove unfair barriers to mental health care. It will also address the needs of people with mental illness who become entangled in the criminal justice system.

The 21st Century Cures Act also:

  • Combats suicide in our schools and communities so precious lives are saved.
  • Increases the mental health workforce, so more trained professionals can help.
  • Strengthens the enforcement of the mental health parity law, so health plans are held accountable for the coverage people paid for.
  • Invests in early intervention, so people get the right mental health care at the right time.
  • Invests resources to keep people with mental illness out of jails and in treatment.

Check out NAMI’s breakdown of the mental health provisions in H.R. 34

What’s Next?

“We’re heartened that Congress has shown strong bipartisan support of mental health. In 2017, we hope Congress continues to work to make sure everyone gets access to mental health care,” Giliberti said.

This hard-fought battle has been won. But our work as advocates is just getting started. As the new Congress convenes in 2017, it’s up to us to hold our elected officials accountable to making mental health and substance abuse national priorities.

One in 5 Americans—and their loved ones—are counting on us.


JAN, 07, 2017 11:52:40 AM
Glad to hear of this bill passed. Mental health are a population of vulnerable adults. They and their families need support instead of stigma and being criminalized.
I lost my son to suicide this past August, after he was in a minor car accident. The last people to see my son alive were the police and emt at the scene. There concern was for the occupant of the other vehicle. She was ok. My son is not. I wish if only a family member had been called to be with my son... maybe he would still be here

JAN, 04, 2017 04:08:51 PM
Anthony Hopkins
Thank You Mr. President and NAMI for making mental health reform a law right now. This would enable millions of people in the United States to get the services that they deserve. Congradulations and thank you for the signing of the new mental health law.

JAN, 02, 2017 09:19:05 PM
Patricia Greco
So glad this has finally happened, and thank you for all your effort. I do wonder how it will help my daughter at 42, 22 of those with mental illness, who of course doesn't want to accept it. She belongs to a county program that says they can't do anything unless she asks for help. How many mentally ill ask for help ?!!

DEC, 30, 2016 01:56:42 PM
Diane Severson
I am grateful for any progress in mental health treatment parity but we still have so much more work to do. My son was 28 when dx with paranoid schizophrenia, fortunately he does receive SSDI but can only see his psychiatrist every 3 mo for 15-30 min for a medication evaluation. Other MH programs are not available to him as he would have to pay too much out of pocket, unlike those on medicaid who have most programs covered for them. His determination & our families commitment to him help keep him functional. It does wear on our own mental & physical health but he's worth it!♡

DEC, 29, 2016 06:23:26 PM
Linda Gribcheck
My son had an episode that caused him to resign from a career job of 13 years. He was psychotic at the time. His employer dropped his health insurance the next day. I pray that this new law will prevent employers from dropping any insurance immediately when it is related to an illness that the employee has not control over.

DEC, 29, 2016 02:47:41 PM
Can we get mental health courts for juveniles too? This is when they need it most before that slippery slope to prison.

DEC, 29, 2016 08:21:01 AM
Seems to do a ton for mental health services but often via promoting the biomedical paradigm while gutting the notion of recovery (apart from some watered-down definition of it as having a "meaningful" life while living with your "disease"), also promotes family's rights at the potential expense of the person with the illness (who hasn't noticed that families are often part of the problem in the first place?)

(I like some of changes to the legal system but apparently it also makes it easier for pharmaceutical companies to maintain high prices and "influence" doctors via unreported grants and gifts [which have been shown to increase rates of drug prescriptions]).

DEC, 29, 2016 07:58:49 AM
Gary Schaefer
Please follow up with more in depth incite on exactly what all this legislation will do for us.

DEC, 29, 2016 04:21:01 AM
Miss Petra Jurkovic
Congrats, thank you, and blessings! In this era of enlightenment it is wonderful to hear that mental health has come into the light of sharing! What a breakthrough for those affected by this and for those who care about them! Hopefully recovery is coming right up for so many that have patiently worked and waited. We are grateful for this moment, and look forward with hope. Good luck.

DEC, 29, 2016 03:39:47 AM
Miss Petra Jurkovic
In this enlightened era it's great to hear that mental health is coming into the light of healing, understanding, and sharing! Smiles all around, blessings, and thank you. What a glad breakthrough of hope and openness for so many affected and touched by this. Good luck and get well soon.

DEC, 29, 2016 02:37:02 AM
Eileen Hedrick
Our family has struggled over the years in trying to support our beautiful & talented daughter & our friends who suffer from this illness. We thank all who have worked so hard for many years to bring these laws to fruitition. May God continue to bless our work.

DEC, 29, 2016 02:29:19 AM
sarah boggs ms mft
Please comment on how this bill will effect available services, access to services, who is eligible for services, who can provide services, the extent of services, payment of services, etc--it is not enough to simply say legislation has been passed--although I realize what a coup it is after all your efforts--I am so grateful for all that you have done-believe me, I know both personally and professionally what you have accomplished--

DEC, 28, 2016 11:36:23 PM
NAMI totally neglected to include the significant gains made in regards to Court-Assisted Outpatient Treatment/Assisted Outpatient Treatment in this blog post. Many local chapters of NAMI have demonstrated a lack of support for this important treatment, contradicting NAMI's national policy favoring this. AOT has been shown in research studies to reduce homelessness, reduce inpatient admissions, reduce violence, improve compliance with treatment, and reduce incarcerations.

DEC, 28, 2016 10:47:22 PM
Know this. It's not all about helping the mentally ill. It's about socialized medicine. So now all doctors know about your mental disorder and can discriminate. I've seen it. So the government can track your care and meds...while Medicare continues to cut benefits. I lost access to a tens unit for instance for pain. Medicare no longer pays. Too many for me to mention...the cuts. This bill will not help. It won't pay for psych medicines. It only allows the powers that be to know about you. Sorry....but it's true. I'm not mentally ill...but have seen what family has gone through and this bill will not help her.

DEC, 28, 2016 10:31:03 PM
Gail Jenson
I'm so happy to see this. Thanks NAMI and all the people that worked so hard to get this through. I hope my son and lots of people out there can get the help they need.

DEC, 28, 2016 09:19:38 PM
Jane Kohler
I'm so happy to hear this however, a tad too late. My daughter that just turned 20 try to take her life due to mental issues and she survived. She will need 24/7 care for the rest of her life.

DEC, 28, 2016 08:18:57 PM
Jon Schwarzmiller
Thank you for mental health advocacy those who supported it from NAMI makes the money I have contributed in the past before I got mentally sick seem worth the effort. I hope people from all around can be helped in the States. Great news!

DEC, 28, 2016 08:18:51 PM
Jo Ann Quintana
This is definitely a step on the right direction, & I thank
all of you who helped make it possible! Will there be any inclusions in this bill, which will mandate professional help for those individuals who won't seek it on their own? My daughter is one of those who refuses to even admit she has a mental health disorder.

DEC, 28, 2016 06:23:09 PM
We need more employers to hire more people with mental illness!


DEC, 28, 2016 05:38:09 PM
Lets see if that works for UBH (through UHC). I am a counselor specializing in mental illness and often have to see people weekly due to SEVERE mental illness. UBH and Value Options, branches of mental health for UHC, will harass counselors if they see a client weekly and, after 20 sessions, force them to see clients every other week and/or decrease the time allowed to 30 minutes. This happens EVERY time, no matter what....keeping the "helpers" from doing their job for those with severe mental illnesses

DEC, 28, 2016 05:07:56 PM
The question we have is: How will this help families who have a loved one who is SO confused they dont accept treatment? Family, PD, VA and APS are all legally prevented from helping if the client is insistent that he will be ok. OK in this case is 'Dr doesn't know what's wrong with me he doesn't help, living environment is health risk, etc. This Law is still going to miss our cases that families are desparately trying to save.

DEC, 28, 2016 05:07:27 PM
I would like to know what these means for people with just Medicare?? Those with Medicare have the least help because not many providers our on panel to accept Medicare because of how low the reimbursements are. Most people can not get to these providers in other cities because they don't have a car, and long bus rides can be hard for those with certain mental illnesses and Medicare does not provide rides like Medicaid does. Those with Medicare have to pay higher copays to mental health provider vs seeing their regular primary doctor. There is a lack of case management, intensive IOP programs and anything will promote their well being. Those with Medicare are told to go through the hospital system for services because they accept part B but people fail to realize there is an additional charge to access services through the hosp system. What was a 20% co pay becomes 40% - Those on Medicare can't afford that!!!! Those on Medicaid have it a lot better when it comes to mental health services. They have no premium to pay each month (most people on SSDI do not qualify for those medicare savings plans that would pay their part b) They have no copays and a abundance of providers and services. Those on Medicare for mental health are the lost and forgotten. Will there be any provisions/inclusions for those with just Medicare??

This Cures sound great but people don't realize how dangerous this bill really is and how programs like Medicare will cut as a result of this bill. Google Elizabeth Warren on Cure's act she breaks it down. The bill was written to protect Big Pharma that the Republicans wanted to get passed but they knew the Democrats would of never sighed this so they included some great causes like mental health, cancer, addiction etc. It's sad when the addiction epidemic is caused by big pharma and the doctors who prescribed them but they are protected under this bill. My thought is instead of the government funding treatment for addiction is to have Big Pharma pay for it - it's not like they are hurting for money. I see this as a way the government agencies all the way down to the mental health agencies are going to profit off this epidemic. That's sad!!!

Also like someone else mentioned above Paul Ryan and his henchmen dismantling SSA, Medicare, ACA, and Medicaid. That is scary and we need people out there for us. A group of senators got together to preserve Medicare. I am very thankful for all those speakers who came forth. However I was saddened by the fact mental illness was not mentioned. I understand the majority of people are elderly on Medicare but there is a big percentage who are also disabled - physically, mental, developmentally etc. We need a voice to stand up to this incoming Presidency.

DEC, 28, 2016 04:57:58 PM
I am always grateful for new helps as a patient. I never realized we had NO mental health system until I entered into it. I'm also now on 4 patch meds, I have Bipolar, PTSD & Hepatitis C. I have been suicidal. I NEVER go off my meds. I agree with another comment here....when the new administration gets in Obamacare, Medicare, Medicad are all on the chopping block. I'm on Medicare & Disibility, I had to move in with my 83 year old Mom because I don't have much money. God help us all!

DEC, 28, 2016 04:30:43 PM
Thad Kaminski
Has congress appropriated any funds for this new program??

DEC, 28, 2016 04:15:48 PM
Elizabeth Bennet
I wish you would have mentioned Congressman Tim Murphy and the other members of congress who are responsible for getting this done. In my opinion, your article and photo gives credit to the President when the credit is due to Murphy and the Congress. this was hard fought.

DEC, 26, 2016 07:56:53 PM
Wonderful news! Our 27 year old son has had so many doors close and goes with minimal treatment for acute bipolar because all he has is medicaid. His only other recourse to get medical attention is a phone call to the police to take him for evaluation. Is this humane? Our family keeps vigilant in keeping him safe and from hurting himself. Help can't come fast enough.

DEC, 24, 2016 01:53:57 AM
We will see I am so sick of being considered a junky or criminal and the EEOC are crap.

DEC, 22, 2016 02:36:31 PM
Clifford Beers Clinic
Congratulations and thanks to all involved. Here in New Haven, CT at our trauma-focused child guidance clinic we can see that this law will help many of the children and families in our care. We're thrilled with the early intervention and prevention elements and look to Congress to continue finding ways to fund efforts that promote mental health and wellness for all.

DEC, 20, 2016 10:27:43 PM
Okay, but now NAMI needs to focus on those of us who are in treatment, and who are on limited incomes, now that ACA AND Medicare AND Social Security are on the cutting block.

NAMI knows that going off psychoactive drugs has tragic consequences for many. So this will happen to millions of us, and...what?

It's simply fascinating how Paul Ryan can give with one hand and take with the next.

NAMI needs to be in front of this issue. What earthly good would it do to get help for more people if they can't afford treatment? For those of us already on medication, how will we be able to avoid just going off?

DEC, 17, 2016 06:16:53 PM
Heidi Ohana
I can't say strongly enough how happy I am that this has been passed and how much it's been needed. My son took his own life 1 year ago after trying desperately to get the mental health care needed. I hope that no other parent goes through this but sadly I know that will not be the case, but I hope at least no other parent goes through this because their child wasn't able to get the mental health care they sought.

DEC, 17, 2016 10:52:51 AM
Heidi Ohana
I can't say strongly enough how happy I am that this has been passed and how much it's been needed. My son took his own life 1 year ago after trying desperately to get the mental health care needed. I hope that no other parent goes through this but sadly I know that will not be the case, but I hope at least no other parent goes through this because their child wasn't able to get the mental health care they sought.

DEC, 16, 2016 03:24:31 PM
Having lost several relatives to Cancer, many people to addiction, and my brother, who suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder, to suicide 9 months ago, I am grateful for this step forward. I hope that in the future, families of those suffering from Cancer, Addiction, and Mental Illness will have better options than we did for better health and actual cures of these diseases.

Thank You to all who worked tirelessly to make this happen. I will truly miss the fine leadership under the Obama Administration.

DEC, 16, 2016 01:05:42 PM
David Limon
It would be helpful if this article had identified HOW this will improve access, rather than only proclaiming that it will.

DEC, 16, 2016 11:55:54 AM
Leif Olov Arne Fredriksson
A country that is bombing down and threaten the rest of the planet, can not be a healthy nation. so start with yourself, and move on to NATO, and proceed to the paper readers in the UN. If there was the slightest agenda would all monitoring and intelligence services and customs ensure that war is impossible. it is possible to follow the tracks with today's technology that you now. So be sure to catch these mass murderer, gun manufacturers and dealers, these people do not deserve to live or die. Destroys the lives of children so as they do.

DEC, 16, 2016 06:40:53 AM
Tammy Cauley
That's really a good thing! But does this new law also protect our SSI and Disability benefits from being cut by Republicans?

DEC, 16, 2016 02:11:41 AM
Teri bryan
Thank god.. we have had a ruff 2 months in grand junction Colorado a few people have been killed, and we have had 6 suicides just in the last 2 weeks..... this town needs help...

DEC, 16, 2016 12:39:34 AM
Ron Welsch
Does the language include Medicare reimursement for LMFTs? and MFT's?

DEC, 15, 2016 09:55:52 PM
We have experienced the heartache and frustration of a relative with mental Heath issues. Being an advocate and trying to fight through the education, healthcare, judicial and now prison system has taken a toll on all of us. Our lives will never be the same but maybe with these first steps of change they will eventually get better and we will be able to move forward.

DEC, 15, 2016 08:31:23 PM
Mamie Caveness
Finally the brain disorders will be treated as any other physical illness.

DEC, 15, 2016 03:24:33 PM
I know quite a few people who seriously need mental health services, especially Trump and Pence!!

DEC, 15, 2016 02:35:15 PM
Darla Lautenschlager

DEC, 15, 2016 02:03:21 PM
Bill Lamond
In this time of emotional turmoil in the United States, the signing of this bill represents a huge ray of light coming through at just the right moment.
As a former psychotherapist and a coach for more than 30 years, I salute our Congress for its bipartisan effort to get this bill passed. May it be a sign of times to come when we work in the real cooperation that is necessary for our country and our people to be great.

DEC, 15, 2016 12:04:58 PM
i will accept any help thank God for med

DEC, 15, 2016 10:49:15 AM
Yvonne Aguero
Thank you so much Nami and the rest of the community that wrote the emails and posted on twitter etc. Thank you president Obama and all of congress for making mental health reform a law.

DEC, 15, 2016 10:48:58 AM
Gerald Evans
Where is help for families who are forced to live with a bipolar member who needs more constructive help? Where are the facilities that can keep these patients until they are rehabilitated ?

DEC, 15, 2016 09:42:09 AM
Sandy Bernier
Removing these unfair barriers so people struggling with mental health issues get better care was long overdue. when people are diagnosed with cancer, we all rally. We offer to take turns taking those diagnosed to treatments, bring meals, offer gas cards for costs of travel. That does not happen when when a family has a loved one struggling with mental health issues. I advocate for cancer research and prevention because I lost my mother, brother and aunt to pancreatic cancer. My beautiful daughter was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 28. The barriers to access to care, the stigma, the lack of local psychiatrist that take medical assistance made getting the necessary help much more difficult and burdensome on my daughter and the family. My daughter was just 30 when she took her life. She was a beautiful brave compassionate soul like so many who lost their battle with mental health issues. I will never forget when her psychiatrist asked my daughter if she was concerned about the medication she was on. My daughters response " OF COURSE I AM ONLY HUMAN" I am now a certified Mental Health First Aide Trainer. My daughter not only could have been saved if more people were trained to ask the right questions, she could have thrived had the system not been so broken. Thank you for this much needed legislation, as an advocate for many public health issues this is a victory one we need to sustain. Now we need to advocate at the state and local level to ensure we get better treatment for anyone struggling with mental health issues and decrease the stigma to ensure anyone with these devistating disorders is treated with dignity and respect.

DEC, 14, 2016 08:11:05 PM
Terri O'Daniel
Congrats and thank you for working so diligently towards helping those with mental health issues. HR 34 will enlighten, encourage and help many, many people.

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