Congress Takes Historic Step Toward Mental Health Reform; NAMI Applauds Many Provisions

Nov 06 2015

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mary Giliberti, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has issued the following statement on the passage of HR 2646, comprehensive mental health reform legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health, late in the evening of Wed., Nov. 4.

"NAMI is thrilled that Congress has taken the first crucial step in moving forward comprehensive, bipartisan mental health legislation.  The extensive discussion and action on a bill focused on the needs of our members and others who are affected by mental illness represented an historic moment.

NAMI appreciates the leadership of the full committee and subcommittee and the extensive work of all members of the subcommittee as they discussed the critical issues in improving mental health care in America. We look forward to working with them as we move toward enactment of final legislation.  We are particularly grateful to U.S. Representatives Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tx.) for their leadership and strong commitment to improving care for Americans living with mental illness.

This historic step responds to the nation's mental health crisis and seeks to build a modern mental health care system oriented toward early identification of symptoms, effective treatment and sustained recovery.   

There is still much work to be done.  The bill will move next to the full committee while the U.S. Senate will be working on parallel legislation, S. 1945, introduced by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

The bill has many steps before it becomes law, but we celebrate this important milestone."

The bill includes many provisions that NAMI has worked for in recent years, including:

  • Supporting innovation and evidence-based practices in mental health care, including early intervention in the treatment of first episode psychosis.
  • Protecting access to psychiatric medications in Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Scaling back restrictions on Federal Medicaid reimbursement for short term, acute inpatient psychiatric treatment for adults between the ages of 22 and 64.
  • Broadening eligibility for funding in Medicaid and Medicare for implementing Health Information Technology in mental health care.
  • Achieving a proper balance between protecting the privacy of sensitive health and mental health information while affording families access to information necessary to serve as effective support. 
  • Establishing an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Services to enhance coordination among different agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 
  • Strengthening funding for certain types of research on serious mental illness at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).