Mental Healthcare - Reforming And Improving A Broken System

Allison Glatfelter, Senior Analyst Monday November 3rd 2014

According to a national survey from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2012, only 62.9 percent of adults with serious mental illness (6.0 million people) had received mental health treatment nationally in the past 12 months.

 

High profile suicides and shootings carried out by assailants with signs of mental illness have put the U.S.’s treatment of the mentally ill in the spotlight. Questions about the quality and availability of mental health treatment for adults has been a subject of growing concern for many Americans. The National Alliance of the Mentally Ill or NAMI define mental illness as: a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. According to a national survey from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2012, only 62.9 percent of adults with serious mental illness (6.0 million people) had received mental health treatment nationally in the past 12 months.   

States and localities generally control the availability and access to mental health care for adults across the country, this somewhat limits Congress’ ability to do more than encourage and offer grants for care, however this changed after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 as many called for federal action.  Below is a summary of recent Congressional proposals to improve mental health care.

Congressional Republican leaders tasked Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) a psychologist with drafting a bill to overhaul the nation’s mental health care following the Sandy Hook shooting.  Republicans, who are unwilling to tighten gun laws to make purchasing and owning firearms more difficult have focused on mental health care reform to prevent future shootings. However, even Rep. Murphy’s effort could prove difficult for Congressional Republicans to support due to concerns about funding. Rep. Murphy introduced H.R.3717, Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013, on December 12, 2013 and instantly became a controversial topic with in the mental health care community.  H.R.3717 allows for families and officials to more easily commit adults to mental institutions for their own safety, this provision has caused some groups, to come out against the bill.  However, most interested groups have focused on the positive parts of the bill, these groups also say that the introduction of this legislation is an important step towards better mental health care.  While H.R.3717 still sits in the House Commerce Committee awaiting consideration, it was the subject of a Subcommittee on Health April 30, 2014 hearing.   Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) also amended H.R.4870, H.Amdt.884 to increase funds for Environmental Restoration in the Air Force to increase funding for mental health care. H.R.647, the ABLE Act of 2013 from Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) was reported by the Committee on Ways and Means on July 31, 2014.  H.R.647 allows the creation of tax-exempt ABLE accounts to assist an individual with a disability in building an account to pay for qualified disability expenses. Defines "qualified disability expenses" to include expenses for education, including higher education expenses, a primary residence, transportation, obtaining and maintaining employment, health and wellness, and other personal support expenses. 

 

A complete listing of related bills in Congress

  1. H.R.3717, Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013, sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) to reform mental health care.  (Introduced, December 12, 2013, hearings held)
  2. H.R.647, the ABLE Act of 2013 ,  sponsored by Rep. Andre Crenshaw (R-FL) allows the creation of tax-exempt ABLE accounts to assist an individual with a disability in building an account to pay for qualified disability expenses. Defines "qualified disability expenses" to include expenses for education, including higher education expenses, a primary residence, transportation, obtaining and maintaining employment, health and wellness, and other personal support expenses(reported by Ways and Means Committee 7/31/2014)
  3. H.R.4783 Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act of 2014,  sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) is a bill to strengthen efforts for mental health care and early intervention (Introduced 5/20/2014).

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Want more?

http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k14/NSDUH170/sr170-mental-illness-state-estimates-2014.htm (STATE BY STATE DATA)

http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness

http://www.nami.org/Content/Microsites275/NAMI_Greater_Orlando/Home263/Welcome_to_NAMIGO!1/NAMI_National_Email_MurphyMemoFinal.pdf