Reps. Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Boost Access to Mental Health Care
The bill is an updated version of legislation Murphy introduced in 2013 (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 6/5). The original measure (HR 3717) aimed to overhaul the way mental health issues are identified and addressed (Lauer, California Healthline, 6/2).
According to Murphy, the updated bill would help to:
- Clarify privacy requirements;
- Decrease barriers to care;
- Expand behavioral health parity; and
- Overhaul dated programs.
The measure would create a new leadership post at HHS, called the assistant secretary for mental health and substance-abuse disorders. In addition, the bill would create a national mental health policy research center, which would work to develop new care models.
Further, the bill would:
- Authorize an early intervention program for individuals who have or are developing schizophrenia;
- Encourage using telepsychiatry in rural and underserved areas;
- Increase the number of psychiatric hospital beds in the country;
- Increase focus on suicide prevention;
- Promote the use of health IT to improve care coordination with individuals' primary care physicians; and
- Provide incentives for states to develop alternatives to institutionalization.
Mark Covall, president and CEO of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, applauded the bill for "offer[ing] a clear path to save lives, communities and money." Covall noted in a statement that the measure would change Medicaid policies that keep adults from accessing short-term acute care in psychiatric hospitals. In addition, he said the bill would bolster mental health and substance-use treatment parity.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law said Friday that the group would likely have the same concerns it had with the original measure. He said, "These elements include tying the hands of protection and advocacy organizations in a way that would prevent them from doing important work on behalf of people with mental illness, promoting increased use of involuntary treatment for people with mental illness, weakening privacy protections for medical records of people with mental illness and crippling the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration." He added that while the update measure does have some favorable proposals, "overall, rather than representing mental health reform, this [bill] is regression to failed policies of the past" (Modern Healthcare, 6/5).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.