Legislative Advocacy


HR 2646 Passed the House E&C Committee – Next Steps
On Wednesday, June 15th the House Energy & Commerce Committee met to “markup,” or vote, on H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015sponsored by Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).
NAMI is pleased to report that your tireless efforts urging Congress to pass mental health reform have paid off. The fact this bill was passed unanimously (53-0) with a bi-partisan vote in this committee is extraordinary, to say the least. Put simply—this is a huge win. NAMI is thrilled that mental health reform is the issue that has inspired collaborative work across the aisle. As Congressman Murphy noted during the bill markup, “This is a substantive bill—people all across America are starting to believe mental illness is an issue we all need to be concerned and care about.”
We still need your help 
While this is a major victory for the 60 million Americans and their families that live with mental illness, we must keep the pressure up to ensure this bill reaches the House floor for a vote.
New provisions in adopted bill 

·         New provisions on mental health parity, including requiring federal agencies to collaborate to improve mental health parity compliance, reporting on federal parity investigations and a plan to improve federal parity enforcement. 

·         Authorizes crisis intervention grants for law enforcement and first responders.

·         Adds a training program on appropriate information-sharing under HIPAA for health care providers, legal professionals and for individuals and families.

·         Creates a grant program to support ACT programs.

·         Provides grant programs to enhance crisis response services and to develop psychiatric inpatient and residential bed tracking

·         Creates an Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee to improve outcomes for people with mental illness, including reducing incarceration and homelessness and increasing employment.

·         Promotes integration of care by permitting Medicaid billing of primary care and mental health or substance use services provided the same day in the same facility (known as same-day billing).

·         Encourages workforce development in rural areas by including mental health professionals in the National Health Service Corps loan repayment programs. 

·         Provides grants to train the peer professional workforce, including peer support specialists and recovery coaches.

Complex Issues
The bill includes the following bipartisan provisions on complex issues reached after extensive negotiations: 

·         Requires that the Secretary of Health and Human Services create an independent grievance procedure for complaints against PAIMIs (there is already a grievance process, but it is not necessarily independent) and prohibits use of federal funds to lobby (current law). Previous bill restrictions on the scope of PAIMI work have been removed.

·         Extends existing AOT grant program, but eliminates the previous 2% mental health block grant increase to incentivize AOT laws.

·         Replaces previous language on HIPAA with a “Sense of Congress” that outlines need for clarity regarding HIPAA, but does not change the law. Requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue final regulations within 1 year to clarify circumstances in which a health care provider may share protected health information.

·         Allows Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) to pay for short-term stays (no more than 15 days per month) of adults ages 21-65 in psychiatric hospitals and facilities (known as IMD exclusion). This provision codifies what is in recently released Medicaid managed care rule.

·         Creates a new Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use that will elevate the position of SAMHSA in the Administration. The bill also permits the appointment of a Deputy Assistant Secretary. The new Assistant Secretary will be required to be a mental health professional, rather than permitting a lawyer or other professional to lead the agency.

The file below is my digest of Title 1 of HR 2646, which addresses responsibilities of the new administrative body under the Dept of Health and Human Services
to oversee all aspects of mental health and substance use disorders throughout the nation. While this digest is not complete or confirmed by NAMI, I exercised my best judgment in preparing it and I believe it will give you some insight into the breadth of scope and wide implications this bill will have for the future of folks impacted by mental illness and substance use disorder. The bill is now finally out of Committee and will be going to the floor of the House for a vote. The time to contact your House of Representatives and ask them to vote for HR 2646 has arrived. Be a part of history!
You can find your House Rep at : http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
(Audio) Informative Interview of Pasadena Judge Smerling on the Mentally Ill in Criminal Justice System

Pasadena Judge Smerling Op Ed Interview on Proposed New LA Jail for Mentally Ill



Get involved early. Watch what the legislative workgroup is watching.

Here’s how:

  • go to the website, www.namicalifornia.org
  • see current and past NAMI CAN! alerts – in the middle of the website Home page, at the top;
  • see the Legislation page – scroll down the page titles on the left side of the Home page;
  • for the bills, click on the Bill List tab; the entire bill or its history or its status – click on the highlighted bill number, e.g. AB 39;
  • a bill that is not on NAMI California’s list – go to www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html

You may also follow a bill yourself by going to the bottom right corner of that screen and clicking on Subscription List. Just fill in the requested information and you will receive an e-mail every time the bill’s status changes.

For other questions about the advocacy process, contact bettie.reinhardt@namicalifornia.org

NAMI California Advocacy Network
1010 Hurley Way, Suite 195
Sacramento, CA, 95811



Comments are closed.