House Democrats Unveil Bill To Fix Mental Health Care System
According to The Hill, the new bill -- by Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) -- could further complicate the push for mental health care reforms as a similar GOP-sponsored measure (HR 3717) introduced last year has struggled to secure adequate support and advance in the chamber.
Barber was a staff member in the office of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was severely injured in a shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six people. Barber was also among about a dozen people who were injured in the shooting by a man who was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Barber's bill omits many of the reforms in the GOP proposal, by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), which focuses on empowering family members dealing with extreme cases of mental illness, The Hill reports. Instead, the Democrat-sponsored measure focuses on creating new federal initiatives to help treat and prevent mental illness.
Specifically, the bill would:
- Bolster care for schoolchildren, seniors and veterans;
- Urge increased research on acute mental illness;
- Create a White House Office of Mental Health Policy to ensure federal agencies are working together to help mentally ill individuals with care, housing, jobs and other services; and
- Reauthorize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
According to The Hill, Barber's bill drew "immediate support" from Mental Health America and Democratic leaders. Barber noted that his proposal is not designed to derail Murphy's bill, adding, "No negotiations (about Murphy's bill) are over. We can and should move forward on a bipartisan basis."
Meanwhile, Murphy said the newly proposed bill would do little to help those living with serious mental illness. Susan Mosychuk, Murphy's chief of staff in a statement wrote that the measure "denies inpatient and outpatient treatment options to those who are experiencing an acute mental health crisis," and it "denies families the opportunity to be part of the care team and help their loved ones with serious mental illness." She added that it "denies the reality that the lead federal agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has failed in its mission" (Viebeck, The Hill, 5/6).
Sebelius Calls for End to Mental Illness Stigma
In related news, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday, in remarks at an event to mark SAMHSA's National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, called for an end to the stigma that is often associated with seeking treatment for mental illness, CQ HealthBeat reports.
She said, "We need to get to a place in this country where everyone feels comfortable accessing treatment without the fear of getting judged, to a place where anyone feels as comfortable saying that they are going for counseling as they are for a flu shot" (Young, CQ HealthBeat, 5/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.