FEDERAL MENTAL HEALTH LEGISLATION
Mental health legislation generally focuses on improving mental wellness in the highest-functioning. It should focus on delivering treatment to the seriously mentally lll. This page tracks national legislation on serious mental illness.
The Federal government should end ‘mission-creep’ and:
- Build more psychiatric hospitals (Eliminate the IMD Exclusion in Medicaid)
- Make more robust use of Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT)
- Provide families of the seriously mentally ill relief from HIPPA Handcuffs that prevent them from helping loved ones
- Reform or eliminate SAMHSA so federal resources go to the seriously ill and science, not the worried well and pop-psychology.
- Reform PAIMI/P&A so families that want care for loved ones don’t have to fight federally funded lawyers.
- Build congregate housing with on-site support for seriously mentally ill.
3/2017: Congress is considering reforming ACA (Obamacare) plan that block grants Medicaid and allows states to not cover mental illness. We oppose.
2/2017: Congress made it easier for certain mental ill to buy guns. This was not a good idea.
2017: Representative Tim Murphy (R. PA) has indicated he will be introducing a bill to reform HIPAA. We support.
12/2016: The 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law incorporating provisions of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015 (HR 2646 text) which updated the 2013 version (HR3717). The Senate equivalents were the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S. 1945 text); and Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015 (S 2002 text). We supported most.
Other Recent Legislation
2015. The Examining America’s Mental Health Services Act of 2015 (HR 826 text) would have studied gaps in services that increase violence and Assisted Outpatient Treatment. Rep. Murphy’s subsequent Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, as well as his amendments to “DocFix” bill addressed these.
2015. The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Act of 2015 (HR 1877 and S711) funded and required SAMHSA to promote MHFA. Because MHFA is not an evidence based program, and has not been shown to help the seriously ill or improve important outcomes we opposed. It was subsequently funded in 21st Century Cures Act.
Federal Mental Health Legislation Ignores Serious Mental Illness
The $204 billion US Mental Health budget has been steered towards treating the 18% who have any loosely defined behavioral health “issues” rather than delivering treatment to the 4% (10 million adults) who are most seriously mentally ill. The mental health industry drives spending away from evidence-based programs to non-evidenced based programs.
Solution: Focusing resources on delivering evidence based treatments to the seriously ill would reduce violence, suicide, victimization, homelessness, hospitalization, incarceration and needless tragedies and save money by reducing the use of hospitals and jails.
Put another way, the problem is not that we don’t spend enough, it is that we don’t spend it efficiently.
Criminalization of mental illness by mental health industry
There are now two mental health systems in the United States. The one run by traditional mental health departments serves those well enough to volunteer and the mental health system run by criminal justice serves those too sick to volunteer. There are three times as many Americans incarcerated for mental illness as there are in psychiatric hospitals.
SAMHSA is largely responsible
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) directs federal mental health policy. See our SAMHSA website for information on SAMHSA funding anti-psychiatry, refusing to focus on the seriously ill, driving mental health block grants to people without serious mental illness, and certifying non evidence based programs as evidence based.
This page only tracks the more important bills and initiatives related to serious mental illness. Many other bills address ‘mental health.’ Thank you for your support of Mental Illness Policy Org.
Reform of Affordable Care Act
March 2017 – ??
Guns for mentally ill bill passes
Bill explanation (USA Today)
Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (21st Century Cures)
Late 2016- 2017
The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (Tim Murphy (R)/Eddie Johnson (D) was proposed in 2013 to focus the mental health system on the most seriously ill. In December 2016 provisions were included in the 21st Century Cures Act and are being implemented in 2017. The bill was not funded when passed, but there was agreement to do so. Rep. Murphy deserves all the praise for this.
Creates an Assistant Secretary of Mental Health over SAMHSA to force it to focus on serious mental illness, coordinate cross-government policy, promote evidence based programs (as opposed to PC ones) and ensure adults with serious mental illnesses are prioritized rather than marginalized.
Funds pilot AOT programs
Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) allows judges to order very narrowly defined individuals – who already have a past history of arrest, violence, or needless hospitalization caused by failure to stay in treatment-to stay in mandated and monitored treatment as a condition of living in the community.
Criminal Justice Reforms
Funds mental health courts which allow judges to order treatment in lieu of trial, and Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to teach law enforcement how to deescalate interactions with mentally ill. The bill reauthorizes and funds the Mentally Ill Offender and Crime Treatment Reduction Act.
Tried to reform HIPAA and FERPA
Early versions of the bill tried to free parents of seriously mentally ill from HIPAA Handcuffs that prevent them from getting the info they need to help loved ones, but SAMHSA-inspired opposition stopped meaningful reform from being included. Rep. Murphy has stated he will try again.
Tried to reform PAIMI/P&A
The Protection and Advocacy program was intended to protect mentally ill from “abuse and neglect” but now protects them from being treated. Early versions of bill attempted to fix, but opposition from SAMHSA-inspired groups prevented reform in final bill.
Problems with PAIMII (Law Journal Article)
Mary Zdanowicz Testimony on PAIMI Problems
Problems with PAIMI (SAMHSA Evaluation of)
Helping Families in MH Crisis (cont.)
Bill importantly clarified that Medicare can reimburse for mental health and physical health services that are received on same day. (“same-day billing”). Provisions to ameliorate Medicaid’s Institutes for Mental Disease (IMD) Exclusion, which prohibits Medicaid funds from being used for seriously mentally ill adults who need hospitalization were not included in final bill.
IMD Exclusion – Jaffe op-ed
IMD Analysis (short)
IMD legal analysis-detailed
Non-useful an other provisions
The bill promoted peer-support credentialing, in spite of lack of evidence that peer support improves meaningful outcomes in seriously mentally ill. It funded Mental Health First Aid which lacks evidence it helps mentally ill.
Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S 1945)
Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S 1945)
This bill does a good job of requiring programs to be evidence-based and focusing them on reducing homelessness, arrest, incarceration and suicide among those well enough to volunteer for services. It should be amended to include provisions to help those who are sicker. Specifically it should increase the availability of hospital beds, fund AOT, eliminate waste and counterproductive activities at SAMHSA, make meaningful reforms in HIPAA, and certainly reign in antitreatment advocacy by federally funded Protection and Advocacy Programs
Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015 (S2002)
The bill contains extensive support for Assisted Outpatient Treatment, Mental Health Courts, training police about mental illness, court supervised treatment for released mentally ill prisoners, forensic assertive community treatment, and other important issues. It is important to note that it is the judiciary committees who are focused on the most important issues that mental health committees have generally ignored.
Text of S 2002