Legislation Attempts to Strengthen Mental Health System

CongressSenators Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) recently introduced legislation that would fund pilot programs for treating mental illness, encourage collaboration between federal agencies dealing with mental health issues and strengthen enforcement of mental health parity rules.  The bill, which resembles a House bill introduced in the previous Congress, has been endorsed by a variety of organizations that assist people with mental illness, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the American Psychological Association.  

The Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 aims to directly increase services for people with mental illness by funding two new grant programs, one that focuses on early intervention for children who exhibit signs of mental illness and another that assists states that are attempting to integrate their physical and mental health systems.  The bill would also continue to fund a variety of programs that are currently in place, like the Community Mental Health Block Grants.

In addition, the bill requires several agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor, to perform audits to ensure that mental health parity rules are being implemented and it creates a Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee to evaluate federal programs that treat people with serious mental health problems.

In a press release, Senator Cassidy, who is also a doctor, explains that "[m]any have their first episode of major mental illness between the ages of 15 and 25, starting down a path that ends with their life and their family's lives being tragically altered. This bill attempts to identify these young people and stop that path from ever opening up and preventing the first episode of serious mental illness, or, once identified, to begin a new path, a better path, a path towards wellness. This is about making those individuals, their families and society, who are threatened with serious mental illness, whole.”  

To read the full text of the  Mental Health Reform Act of 2015, click here.

Article Last Modified: 08/28/2015

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