On November 4, the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up an amended version of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015 (H.R. 2646), introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). However, the bill still does not reflect the voices or meet the needs of millions of Americans with mental health conditions, said the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR).
“The Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee failed to incorporate our recommendations,” said Daniel B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., Board President of NCMHR, which represents people diagnosed with mental health conditions and their organizations. “Our Coalition strongly urges Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Commerce Committee Chair, to incorporate the recommendations of our community in the next version of H.R. 2646, as advocated by President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, of which I was a member.”
Dr. Fisher said that NCMHR continues to have very serious concerns about the amended bill. “It still gravely impairs the functioning of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), violates civil rights by advancing assisted outpatient treatment without exploring better alternatives and by loosening HIPAA, removes many legal protections for persons with disabilities by changes to the federal Protection and Advocacy program, forces peer supporters into an overly clinical role, and weakens states’ ability to serve their most vulnerable citizens by having the federal government dictate state mental health policy.
“We, individuals who’ve been diagnosed with such serious mental health conditions as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, have been disenfranchised,” he continued, “because H.R. 2646 has been written without the involvement of persons in recovery from mental health conditions.”
NCMHR’s recommendations include strengthening SAMHSA so it can promote:
- Supported employment and supported education approaches, which need to be further developed, taught, and reimbursed;
- Need-Adapted and Open Dialogue approaches to team decision making that include the family and the consumer, and that allow communication with families without HIPAA violations;
- Peers’ playing a central role in treatment and support, which will require new reimbursement structures for non-clinical roles for peers, training of peers in recovery-based approaches, and expanding state networks and national consumer-run technical assistance centers to support these changes;
- Development of crisis alternatives to hospitalization, including peer-run telephone support, peer-run and non-peer-run crisis respites, and crisis stabilization units;
- The capacity of the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness program to protect the rights of individuals with mental health conditions, as mandated;
- Increased representation of individuals with mental health conditions and family members in the activities of HR 2646’s Mental Health Policy Laboratory.
NCMHR is a national voice for 31 statewide consumer organizations, consumer-run technical assistance centers, and associated organizations in the decisions affecting our lives.