Nonpartisan GAO: “Interagency coordination for programs supporting individuals with serious mental illness is lacking.”
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today released a stunning new report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office entitled, “Mental Health: HHS Leadership Needed to Coordinate Federal Efforts Related to Serious Mental Illness.” The government watchdog’s report highlights that, despite over 100 distinct programs across eight federal agencies identified and billions of dollars committed annually to them, the federal mental health system has serious shortfalls in getting individuals with serious mental illness much needed treatments. The report reads, “Although SAMHSA is charged with promoting coordination across the federal government regarding mental illness, its efforts to lead coordination – specifically on serious mental illness – across agencies have been lacking.”
The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing on Wednesday, February 11 at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building to review the report. The hearing is entitled, “Federal Efforts on Mental Health: Why Greater HHS Leadership is Needed.”
In its review, GAO “identified 112 federal programs that generally supported individuals with serious mental illness in fiscal year 2013. The majority of these programs addressed broad issues, such as homelessness, that can include individuals with serious mental illness. The programs were spread across eight federal agencies … Agencies had difficulty identifying all programs supporting individuals with serious mental illness because they did not always track whether or not such individuals were among those served by the program. Agencies also varied in which programs they identified because they had different definitions of what such a program might be. Such inconsistency limits the potential comparability across programs.”
“This GAO report is a much-needed wake-up call. The federal government’s approach to addressing mental illness is a convoluted and disjointed mess. Shame on us if we don’t take action and work on fixing the system-wide failures identified in this report so that we can focus resources on helping those in desperate need of medical services for treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and chronic depression,” said Murphy.
In 2013 and 2014, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations conducted a thorough review of the federal mental health systems, releasing a report on its findings in May 2014. To address the shortfalls in treatment of severe mental illness, Murphy introduced the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act in December 2013. Two major portions of that bill were signed into law in the 113th Congress. Murphy is currently preparing to reintroduce the legislation in this new Congress.
The Majority Memorandum, a witness list, and witness testimony will be available here as they are posted.