Laura Pogliano is on a mission.
Last January, Laura Pogliano's son, Zac had a heart attack and died–losing his battle with schizophrenia. In large part, HIPAA* regulations, that prevented Laura from accessing critical treatment information concerning Zac, were to blame for her son's death. As Pogliano explained, "Once I lost control of my ability to monitor Zac's treatment things got bad quickly."
Today, Laura Pogliano's on a mission. She's become an advocate and the president of Parents for Care, a mental health advocacy group concentrating on assisting parents with schizophrenic children. And, she's staring down (figuratively, of course) two Congressmen–one Democrat and one Republican–for holding up critical and bipartisan mental health reform in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They're Congressmen Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) and Fred Upton (R-Michigan). They are the two most powerful members of the committee.
HR 2646 the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015, sponsored by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) would emphasis:
- Promoting appropriate treatment for mentally ill individuals by treating their caregivers as personal representatives for purposes of HIPAA privacy regulations.
- Screening and early intervention;
- Community-based systems of care;
- Enhancing the behavioral health workforce;
- Innovation to develop new evidence-based programs;
- Integration of health and behavioral health care;
- Enforcement of parity in coverage between health and behavioral health services;
- Incentives for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) rather than mandates;
- Elevation of behavioral health in the federal government, including increased coordination of services; and
- Suicide prevention-based on the Garrett Lee Smith Act Reauthorization.
Like any piece of legislation HR 2646 isn't perfect. It doesn't deal with criminal justice or insurance parity issues. It is, however, a great start.
I am sure you're asking how can you help. The answer is simple: call those two members and tell them to forward the bill to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health:
Congressman Frank Pallone's Office: (202) 225-4671
Congressman Fred Upton's Office: (202) 225-3761
You can also go to their respective Facebook pages and post your sentiments.
Please call as soon as humanly possible. It's the least we could do for Zac and Laura, and everyone who suffers or cares for a person with mental illness.
Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome.
*HIPPA is the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. A primary feature of the law is data privacy and security provisions designed to safeguard medical information.