This week Representative Tim Murphy, a Republican from a district just south of Pittsburgh, joined Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Dallas Democrat in introducing legislation that would comprehensively reform America's mental health care system.
The good news is that mental health, and how we provide services to those with mental illness, is suddenly the issue du jour in Washington D.C. While I see a lot of good and a few controversial provisions in the bill, I am glad to see Congress talking about our issues for a change.
Here are 8-things the bill looks to reform in the current system and my comments:
1. More doctors—and less lawyers—will guide mental health. (This just makes sense. Physicians are most qualified to understand service priorities and should run agencies.)
2. There would be a stricter funding criteria for mental health and addiction programs. (This improves quality standards. It may hurt some small providers though.)
3. States would be rewarded for implementing Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) . (AOT has been criticized for being too draconian but sometimes people need their meds and just refuse to take them. Smart to make this a state by state decision.)
4. It would make crucial information more accessible to parents and caregivers. (HIPPA has flaws and completely restricting anyone from having knowledge of a loved ones mental health history is one of those flaws.)
5. Medicaid and Medicare would be accepted at larger inpatient facilities. (A minor tweak to current law but a smart one.)
6. It would limit the powers of a national advocacy program for individuals with mental illness. (I have mixed feelings here, I feel like they're may be throwing the baby out with the bath water.)
7. If you use Medicare, you will no longer have a lifelong limit of 190-psychiatric hospitalization days. (Another minor but smart tweak to current law.)
8. It would set standards for who qualifies as a “peer” in “peer-to-peer” programs. (This appears to improve quality. Looking at this provision it seems like the devil is, not in the details, but the implementation. This should not freeze out proven advocates.)
I am by no means an expert on these issues and speak as a patient and advocate. However, I am a lobbyist by profession and I do understand that many times our elected officials don't talk to the people affected by their proposed solutions. Many times, the consequence of that failure is public policy that does more harm than good.
My purpose in posting about the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act is to start our mentalhealthjustice.net community discussing this bill. I am interested to hear everyone's perspective. Perhaps, we can even have an impact on the bill as it moves through the house Energy and Commerce Committee.
There are several members of the committee, with which, mentalhealthjustice.com has a relationship. If we can generate some realistic ideas for amendments, we will approach those members and ask them to add those changes to the bill.
You have the experience. You know what the problems are. Together, let's try to solve them.
I am looking forward to your thoughts. Mental Health Justice. No Stigma. No Judgment. Everyone is welcome.