Monday, December 16, 2013

Murphy Introduces House Mental Health Bill

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), a former practicing psychologist and Chairman of Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, has introduced a major mental health bill, aimed at substantial reforms based on the results of an investigation done by his committee earlier this year.

Rep. Murphy’s bill, “The Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act” attempts to overhaul significant portions of the mental health system, by focusing programs and resources on psychiatric care for patients and their families. Support from the mental health community on this bill is split, we’ll go over some of the significant pieces of this bill and point of some of the points of support and controversy.

Rep. Murphy’s bill would create an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), would raise visibility of eating disorders, and streamline how mental health issues are dealt with at HHS. While some groups see this as an opportunity to raise the profile of mental health disorders at HHS and streamline oversight, others are concerned that it would dismantle and override SAMHSA and turn back some of the work SAMHSA has done on this issue.

Some of the more controversial provisions include: altering the Health Information and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules and mandatory inpatient treatment. The HIPAA alterations would allow parents and caregivers to access information about their loved ones. Some groups, argue that the restriction of information to parents and caregivers have hindered parents’ ability to get treatment for their children, while privacy advocates, find the distribution of medical information without consent egregious. The most controversial provisions includes the establishment of a grant program to expand involuntary outpatient commitment, under which someone with a serious mental illness is court-mandated to follow a specific treatment plan, usually requiring medication.

We will continue to monitor this bill as it progresses.

A more detailed summary of the major points of the bill includes*:
  • Creates an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders within the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate federal government programs and ensure that recipients of the community mental health services block grant apply evidence-based models of care developed by the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • Alters the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act so physicians and mental health professionals may provide information to parents and caregivers about a loved one who is in an acute mental health crisis to protect their health, safety, and well-being.
  • Increases access to acute care psychiatric beds for the most critical patients.
  • Court-ordered ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment,’
  • Tele-psychiatry to link pediatricians and primary care physicians with psychiatrists and psychologists in areas where patients do not have access to mental health professionals.
  • Protects certain classes of drugs commonly used to treat mental illness so physicians have prescribe the right medication for those on Medicare and Medicaid similar to the protected classes for persons with epilepsy and cancer.
  • Authorizes the BRAIN research initiative at the National Institute of Mental Health and encourages the agency to undertake additional research projects on serious mental illness and self- or other-directed violence.
  • Applies the standards for a new class of Federally Qualified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (FQCBHC), requiring them to provide a range of mental health and primary care services.
  • Reauthorizes mental health courts and requires the Department of Justice to collect more data on interactions between the police and the mentally ill. The bill also authorizes Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) to be used for mental health training of law enforcement and corrections officers
  • The Department of Education, working with mental health stakeholders, will undertake a national campaign aimed at reducing the stigma of severe mental illness in schools. The bill also reauthorizes the Garrett Lee Smith suicide prevention program.
  • Extends the health information technology incentive program to mental health providers so they can communicate and work with primary care clinicians.
  • Eliminates federal legal barriers under the Federal Tort Claims Act preventing physician volunteerism at community mental health clinics and federally-qualified health centers.
  • Emphasizes evidence-based treatments, sunsets unauthorized programs, and strengthens congressional oversight of all federal behavioral health grants.

* Taken from the full summary of the investigation and results available at:

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