Legislative Advocacy

June 2014

Landmark legislation fixes patchwork of antiquated and ineffective programs, helps millions of Americans 

Tim Murphy, U.S. Congressman for the 18th District of Pennsylvania, introduces The Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 3717)

House Energy & Commerce Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (PA-18) unveiled his landmark mental health reform legislation, the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act, after a year long investigation into the nation’s broken mental health system.

“Those who need help the most are getting it the least because the nation’s mental health system is broken,” said Dr. Murphy, a clinical psychologist with over three decades’ experience.

“Too many individuals with mental illness are ending up on the street or in jail because of mental illness. We must no longer be silent on the need to help the mentally ill because millions of families are struggling with a son, daughter, or loved one who is sick and needs help.”

The Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act focuses programs and resources on psychiatric care for patients and families most in need of services by increasing inpatient and outpatient treatment options; clarifying standards used to commit an individual to medical care; updating the existing legal framework to help families and physicians communicate during a crisis; and moving toward data-driven, evidence-based models of care so treatment is accessed not through the criminal justice system but the healthcare system.

“The tragedy of Sandy Hook is the most obvious of consequence of failing to address mental illness. More common are the individual families whose lives are broken by mental illness. This critical legislation begins to address our broken mental health  system and will help those suffering from mental        illnesses get the care they need. I appreciate Dr. Murphy’s leadership on this issue, as a clinical psychologist with three decades of experience he understands this importance of getting the right care to people who need it the most,” said Congressman Bill Cassidy M.D.

Murphy pointed to the critical lack of inpatient treatment options for those with serious mental illness (SMI), explaining that the number of psychiatric beds has fallen from 550,000 in 1955 to just 40,000 today. Approximately two million of the eleven million American adults with a serious mental illness are not receiving treatment.

In addition to addressing the gaps in care for adults and children with SMI like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act addresses concerns that the Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) frustrate the efforts of physicians to share critical information about a young adult’s mental state with parents. It empowers parents and caregivers by breaking down the barriers that prevent mental health professionals from talking to parents of a loved one who is suffering from an acute mental health crisis.

“Our bill takes a clinical approach to supporting families and individuals undergoing sudden or long-term mental health crises,” said Rep. Leonard Lance, a member of the Health Subcommittee. “Quality mental health care is of great importance to countless Americans and it is indeed one of the most significant health care challenges we face as a Nation. Recent data suggest less than one-third of Americans with diagnosable mental illness actually get treatment. And experts also estimate that more than half of those who suffer from severe mental disorders do not receive treatment in a given year. Veterans, young people and countless others are being failed by the current system. “Chairman Murphy is an expert on these matters and I appreciate his thoughtful crafting of this legislation.”

The legislation also offers viable and cost-effective alternatives to the institutionalization model.
The Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act provides an option to existing inpatient care through court-ordered Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), reducing rates of imprisonment, homelessness, substance abuse, and costly ER visits for the chronically mentally ill.

Murphy said in closing, “Treatment delayed is treatment denied, and without help there is no hope. Today, that begins to change.”


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