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Democrats Push for Comprehensive Reforms to Strengthen Mental Health System

Nov 4, 2015
Press Release
Lawmakers Offer Proposal that Invests in Prevention, Supports Treatment, & Promotes Recovery

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, led by full Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX), offered legislation that would address mental health reform in a comprehensive and meaningful way.  At the markup of H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, offered by Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA), Committee Democrats introduced a substitute bill that would better serve the needs of individuals with mental health conditions and substance use disorders across the full continuum of care. 

The Democratic substitute provides much-needed funding for critical behavioral health programs to ensure that those living with mental illness and substance use disorders get the services and supports that they need to recover.  It also invests in early intervention and prevention programs, improves access to care by strengthening parity enforcement, and addresses the overwhelming opioid epidemic plaguing communities across the country by focusing on prescriber education, substance abuse treatment, and recovery series.

The Democratic substitute incorporates bipartisan ideas and proposals generated from numerous meetings with stakeholder groups to better understand the behavioral health system and how to improve it. 

“Mental health has often been neglected within the broader conversation of our healthcare system. It is clear that we need to update our policies to better serve individuals and families living with mental illness,” said Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX).  “This is why we worked to improve this legislation, to make it a more comprehensive and reasonable policy that has a chance of becoming law, and making a real difference.”

“Time and time again we have seen tragedies across the nation, in our communities, and too often in our own lives that are connected to behavioral health issues. The Democratic substitute would have substantially improved the Murphy bill to strengthen the entire system by ensuring that individuals with mental illness, including serious mental illness, substance use disorders, and co-occurring conditions get the services and support that they need to recover,” said Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA).

“We simply cannot claim to reform our broken mental health system without considering comprehensive proposals.  Solving the problem of inadequate access to quality mental health care and substance abuse treatment will take substantial investments, like those made in our substitute. What we need is to invest in our mental health infrastructure and provide the full continuum of care for people with mental illness,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

“The Democratic Substitute amendment will put us on a better path to comprehensive reform by increasing access to the full continuum of care – from prevention, to crisis intervention, to supporting treatment and recovery,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA).  “By making concrete investments in the behavioral health care system, our Substitute amendment offers real solutions for families, patients, and communities, ensuring they have the support and services that they need and deserve.”

“Our mental health system has a crippling access problem,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA). “Persistent gaps in care and barriers to treatment are leaving millions of Americans to suffer in silence and allowing our loved ones to fall into tragic cycles of homelessness, prison, substance abuse and worse. True and comprehensive reform of our system can only be achieved through strong investments in the full continuum of care, which is the focus of the legislation offered by E&C Democrats today. I’m heartened by the bipartisan commitment to address this issue and hopeful common ground will be found in the weeks and months ahead.”

“This alternative, which incorporates bipartisan proposals already put forth, would ensure that the necessary resources are in place to address the needs of those living with mental illness in a meaningful way,” said full Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ).  “Democrats are committed to improving and strengthening the mental health system in this country, and this substitute does just that while also protecting the rights of patients, providing new funding for crucial programs, and addressing substance use disorders.

The full text of the Democratic substitute is available here, and a section-by-section breakdown of the substitute can be found here.