-- 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.