Committee Continues Bipartisan Oversight of Nation’s Mental Health System

June 14, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) today requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review the federal government’s mental health programs as well as examine oversight of specific grants awarded to states, local communities, and organizations to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used effectively to treat the seriously mentally ill. Recent research reveals that one in four adults suffer from a mental disorder, and in 2008, an estimated 9.8 million adults aged 18 and older in the United States had a serious mental illness. The requests are part of the committee’s ongoing post-Newtown examination of mental health programs and federal resources available to individuals with serious mental illnesses.

In one request to GAO, Murphy and DeGette focused on the need for federal mental health programs to effectively work together, maximizing resources to achieve the most benefit for patients. They wrote, “Given that multiple departments and agencies are involved in addressing mental health needs, it is especially important that those involved in supporting major programs to address mental illness make every effort to ensure that federal resources are maximized to meet the needs of this population. We would like GAO to provide information on how key federal departments and agencies, like those discussed above, support programs for individuals with serious mental illness and take steps to ensure their programs meet the needs of this population.”

In the second request to GAO, Murphy and DeGette focused on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the “combination of competitive discretionary and block grant programs to states, local communities, and organizations that provide or facilitate treatment and prevention services,” used to achieve its goal of reducing the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

The members wrote, “With a total agency budget of about $3.6 billion in fiscal year 2012, several thousand projects were awarded funds by SAMHSA. Of this total, nearly $1 billion was allocated to SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) for mental health-related programs. Adequate oversight of grants can not only help ensure that funds are being used appropriately by grantees, but can also provide a source of ongoing information about implementation and accomplishments that can be used generally to help improve programs over time. We would like GAO to provide information on SAMHSA’s CMHS oversight of its grants for programs, with particular attention to monitoring that occurs during the award period. ”

The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee has been examining whether federal dollars devoted to mental health are reaching those individuals with the most serious mental illnesses and ensuring the most effective treatments are available to them. These letters follow a March 5, 2013, bipartisan forum in which members learned that half of individuals with severe mental illness do not even recognize the problem, and may refuse treatment and medication to help them recover. The subcommittee also held an April 26, 2013, hearing looking at how federal privacy laws may help or hurt patient care and public safety and a May 22, 2013, hearing on SAMHSA’s role in delivering services to the severely mentally ill.

Read the committee’s June 13, 2013 letters to GAO here.

Read the committee’s May 8, 2013 Letter to SAMHSA here.

Read the committee’s April 10, 2013 letter to OMB here.

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