July 6, 2016
Jamie Mondics
Treatment Advocacy Center
(703) 294-6003
(215) 439-8512

U.S. House of Representatives Passes Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act
"The onus is now on the Senate to pick up the mantle of reform and finally end the neglect of millions of Americans and their families," said the Treatment Advocacy Center
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA  -- The U.S. House of Representatives, by an overwhelming majority (422-2),  today passed the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646). The Treatment Advocacy Center has called this the first bill in generations to make substantial reforms to our nation's failed mental health system. 

"The incredible bipartisan momentum behind the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act offers real hope to families and their loved ones who have been locked out of care. This is a powerful moment for our nation," said John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center. 

"For far too long, we have abandoned people in need of treatment to a jail cell or the streets," Snook continued. "Our children will recognize this as the moment when the country finally accepted that people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder deserve appropriate care."

The focus now shifts to the Senate, where a similar reform measure passed the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in March. "This is one of the most important moments for mental health in more than fifty years," said Snook. "The Senate must not squander this momentum. Too many lives are hanging in the balance."

Among the most important reforms, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act:
  • Reforms SAMHSA: Creates an Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders - who is a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist - to coordinate efforts and elevate the importance of mental health and severe mental illness in the federal government;
  • Funds AOT: Authorizes funding for the assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) federal grant program until 2022 to catalyze communities to implement this lifesaving, evidence-based treatment program;
  • Addresses P&A: Provides important oversight and reporting requirements for federal Protection & Advocacy organizations to ensure that these vital programs are properly focused on their mission;
  • Other major fixes: 
    • Codifies the recently released IMD rule allowing for up to 15 days per month of inpatient psychiatric care for many Medicaid beneficiaries and requires the extension of 1115 waivers to provide other avenues to address IMD;
    • Takes important steps to begin the reformation of HIPAA, including requiring HHS to pass new regulations detailing when and how mental health information can be shared with families and caregivers;
    • Strengthens community crisis response, including grants for the creation of community bed databases; 
    • Authorizes grant funding to create new assertive community treatment (ACT) teams.

The Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness. The organization promotes laws, policies and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The organization does not accept funding from the pharmaceutical industry. The American Psychiatric Association awarded the Treatment Advocacy Center its 2006 presidential commendation for "sustained extraordinary advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable mentally ill patients who lack the insight to seek and continue effective care and benefit from assisted outpatient treatment."