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Landmark Mental Health Reform Legislation Passes Senate: Headed To The President's Desk
by WTUL News and Views
Sunday Dec 11th, 2016 7:58 AM
Janet Hays from WTUL News and Views was in Washington D.C. Monday Dec. 5th, 2016 for a press conference to highlight mental health reform provisions in the 21st Century CURES Act: A landmark Bill named by Senator Mitch McConnell to be "the most important piece of legislation that Congress will pass this year."
Audio 38:17

Dozens of family advocates from across the country traveled to Washington D.C. to witness the momentous and historic Senate vote in support of H.R. 2646 "The Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act" - a bill that was projected to have a 1% chance of passing at the time of it's introduction 4 years ago. Present to speak at the press conference were: Senator Chris Murphy [D-CT], Senator Lamar Alexander [R-TN], Senator Cornyn [R-TX], Senator Bill Cassidy [R-LA], Representative Tim Murphy [R-PA], Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson [D-TX] and Representative Fred Upton [R- MI]. (Missing - Senator Patty Murray [D-WA] due to travel delays).

Despite the Bill's overwhelming bipartisan support and having undergone a process that exemplifies how Congress is supposed to work, family advocates agree that much work needs to be done to improve the Bill.

Dj Jaffe - Director of Mental Illness Policy Org - points out that "unless President-elect Trump “drains the swamp” at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS)—divisions of the federal Department of Health and Human Services—many of the new law’s useful provisions could be negated or undone by the permanent bureaucracy."

Representative Tim Murphy - original author of "The Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act" - is committed to fulfilling his promise to families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims to champion treatment for those with serious mental illness to avert future tragedies. "We didn't get everything we needed, but we needed everything we got" was a refrain he used repeatedly throughout the week.

Among other provisions, the mental health portion of the bill:

• Creates a new position of Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse;
• Establishes new grant programs for early intervention;
• Directs states to only fund evidence-based mental health initiatives with a proven track record;
• Removes barriers to individuals accessing mental-health care and services;
• Promotes jail diversion initiatives and other programs to keep the mentally ill from being incarcerated;
• Expands access to mental healthcare providers and beds for patients;
• Requires health insurance companies to cover more mental health treatments;
• Requires substantial new data collection around mental illness and the criminal justice system.