Barletta Backs Comprehensive Mental Health Reform

Jul 6, 2016
Press Release
Bill Addresses More than 10 Million Americans Suffering, Untold Others Undiagnosed

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today voted in favor of sweeping legislation to reform the mental health system, addressing the needs of more than 10 million Americans facing serious mental illness and the countless others who go without diagnosis or treatment.  The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646), authored by Rep. Tim Murphy (PA-18), breaks down federal barriers to care, clarifies privacy standards for families and caregivers; reforms outdated programs, expands parity accountability, and invests in services for the most difficult to treat cases while driving evidence-based care.  H.R. 2646 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 422-to-2.

“For too long, people with mental illnesses have been stigmatized and neglected by a health care system that did not adequately respond to their needs,” Barletta said.  “This is important legislation that will help individuals and families identify and treat conditions that have impacted so many lives.”

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act:

  • Empowers parents and caregivers to access care before stage four, or the latest stage of the chronic disease process.
  • Fixes shortages of inpatient beds.
  • Reaches underserved and rural populations.
  • Expands the mental health workforce.
  • Drives evidence-based care.
  • Provides alternatives to institutionalization.
  • Integrates primary and behavior care.
  • Increases physician volunteerism.
  • Advances critical medical research.
  • Brings accountability to mental health and substance use parity.

“We know that there is a nationwide shortage of nearly 100,000 psychiatric beds, and that three of the largest mental health ‘hospitals’ are actually criminal detention facilities – the Cook County, Los Angeles County, and Rikers Island jails,” Barletta said.  “This is an unacceptable situation which must be rectified so that we can begin to help people and families who need it most.”

In particular, the legislation:

Allows Parents and Caregivers to Help With Care

  • Breaks down barriers so families can work with doctors and mental health professionals as meaningful partners in health care delivery.

Increases the Number of Crisis Mental Health Beds

  • Provides additional psychiatric hospital beds for those experiencing an acute mental health crisis and in need of short term immediate inpatient care for patient stabilization.

Drives Evidence-Based Care

  • Establishes an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use with experience in mental health and substance use treatment to elevate these issues, coordinate programs across agencies, and promote evidence-based programs.

Builds on Existing Mental Health & Substance Abuse Parity laws

  • Requires a public report on all federal investigations into compliance with the parity law so families and consumers know what treatment they have rights to access.
  • Develops an action plan for improved enforcement of existing parity requirements.
  • Clarifies that eating disorders must be covered under the current mental health parity standards.

Brings Accountability to Federal Grant Programs

  • Establishes the National Mental Health Policy Laboratory to state objective and scientific outcome measure for all mental health grants. 

Focuses on Innovation

  • Creates a National Mental Health Policy Laboratory to drive innovative models of care, and develop evidence-based standards for grant programs.

Reaches Underserved and Rural Populations

  • Advances tele-psychiatry to link pediatricians and primary care doctors with psychiatrists and psychologists in areas where patients don’t have access to needed care.     

Expands the Mental Health Workforce

  • Requires the Assistant Secretary to study and develop a national strategy for increasing the number of psychiatrists, child & adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, and mental health peer-support specialists.
  • Authorizes for the first time the Minority Fellowship Program.  

Advances Early Intervention and Prevention Programs

  • Authorizes, for the first time in federal law, the Recovery after Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE), an evidence-based early intervention program.
  • Reauthorizes the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
  • Launches a new early childhood grant program to provide intensive services for children with serious emotional disturbances in an educational setting. 

Develops Alternatives to Institutionalization

  • Incentivizes states to provide community-based alternatives to institutionalization for those with serious mental illness, such as Assisted Outpatient Treatment, Assertive Community Treatment, and other intensive community-based approaches.

Focuses on Suicide Prevention

  • Reauthorizes the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Program and for the first time authorizes the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Increases Program Coordination across the Federal Government

  • Establishes Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee to organize, integrate, and coordinate the research, treatment, housing and services for individuals with substance use disorders and mental illness.

Reforms Protection & Advocacy

  • Fixes the broken grievance procedure by providing an independent pathway so families can once again participate in the protection, care and advocacy on behalf of their loved ones.