“After nearly 12 hours in markup, the bill was moved to the Energy and Commerce Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18 ayes and 12 nays,” said the Treatment Advocacy Center. “All provisions to help the most severely mentally ill remain.”
Treatment Advocacy Center captures the victory:
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646) made it out of the health subcommittee markup yesterday with all provisions intact to help the most severely mentally ill.
Introduced by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), this landmark bill has the tremendous bipartisan support of 162 Representatives, and focuses on mental health reform for those with severe mental illness and their families who are struggling to get necessary care for their loved one.
“The whole point of advancing mental health reform is to help people most in need — the severely mentally ill, particularly people who may not understand they have an illness,” said Treatment Advocacy Center Executive Director John Snook. “Keeping these vital provisions intact means that for the first time, evidence-based mental health services will be targeted to help those with severe mental illness and the families who care for them.”
Key provisions for the most severely ill that will remain in the bill as it advances include:
- Creates an Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders to coordinate efforts and elevate the importance of mental health and severe mental illness in the federal government;
- Awards funding to states and local jurisdictions to implement lifesaving, evidence-based treatment programs, called “assisted outpatient treatment” (AOT) laws for people who are too sick to maintain treatment themselves;
- Reforms the IMD exclusion to increase the availability of psychiatric inpatient beds; and
- Clarifies HIPAA to ensure mental health professionals are legally permitted to share critical diagnostic criteria and treatment information with parents or caregivers of patients with serious mental illness.
At yesterday’s markup, lawmakers heard from an audience of families who have felt powerless to prevent their loved ones’ deterioration.
Mothers of children battling mental illness were among those who attended the committee markup to show their support for the bill, wearing neon pink stickers that said “Show Compassion Not Politics” urging members to keep provisions that would protect their loved ones.
Tanya Shuy, a Maryland resident who lost her 26-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, to suicide this year said she is determined to see a change in the system that sent her daughter to the grave.
Maintaining the bill’s focus on severe mental illness during the markup process was one of the most important steps toward meaningful mental health reform. After nearly 12 hours, the bill moved to the Energy and Commerce Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18 ayes and 12 nays.
To become law, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act also requires approval by the Energy and Commerce Committee, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and President Obama.
[Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America] and The Treatment Advocacy Center are among the many groups who applaud Representatives Murphy and Johnson. We also applaud the mental health advocates and families affected by serious mental illness for rallying together during this watershed moment for mental health reform and giving a voice to the voiceless.