Mental Health Reform: All About Those Bills

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Our mental health system is a hot mess. The majority of people who need care can't get it. Until now. There’s a massive shortage of providers. And the last major overhaul was a “psychiatric titanic.” It’s not going to be easy to fix, but there are two bills in Congress that could set us in the right direction.

Side note: While our elected officials seem to spend the majority of their time fighting like cats and dogs, or rather, elephants and donkeys, mental health is actually a nonpartisan issue. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have a history of pushing for policies to save and improve the lives of people with mental illness. For that reason, I'll do my best at remaining politically objective on this site. #merica

Back to the bills.

The House bill is called “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015.” It came onto the scene last June via Representative Tim Murphy. It wants to give the the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (aka SAMHSA) a big makeover so that it focuses more on serious mental illness. They also want to give more funding to programs that help people stay on their meds, and to make it easier for caregivers to bypass HIPPA when they need critical health information about their loved ones. The House bill also wants to help providers use evidence-based interventions and focus more on children’s mental health. Read more about it here.

Then the Senate bill, called “Mental Health Reform Act of 2015,” was introduced in August by Senator Bill Cassidy. The Senate bill was all like “Yeah, that’s a good idea, but I don’t know about shaking up SAMHSA or messing with HIPPA.”  Read more about it here.

Both bills will make it possible to spot and treat serious mental illness in early stages, help cut down on the number of people with serious mental illness who are in jail for no legit reason, enforce those parity laws that some insurers still want to ignore, and increase access to quality mental health care.

We need Congress to pass one of these bills. The Senate bill goes further towards wide-scale reform, but really, either would be a massive improvement.

Want to do something about it? Let your representatives in the House and Senate know you support mental reform and tell them to pass these bills. You can find them using this handy zip code tool.