Rewire Article: Advocates Say Bill to Address Gaps in Mental Health Care Would Do More Harm Than Good

Article over at Rewire about H.R. 2646 (“Murphy Bill”):

Advocates say that U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” purported to help address gaps in care, is regressive and strips rights away from those diagnosed with mental illness. This leaves those in the LGBTQ community—who already often have an adversarial relationship with the mental health sector—at particular risk.

Topics include privacy concerns, the difficulties patients face when trying to have their concerns taken seriously, the need for trauma-informed care, and the implications for the LGBTQ community.

Great quotations from Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán, JD, director of the Trans/GNC Justice Project at the National LGBTQ Task Force and #RealMHChange’s own Leah Harris.

The article is worth reading in full.

Action Alert from NCIL: Call Your Representative to Tell Them to Oppose H.R. 2646

Action alert from the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) re: H.R. 2646 (“Murphy Bill”):

The bill is still bad for people with disabilities.

Representative Murphy, the bill’s author, called H.R. 2646 the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015.” Others know it as the “Murphy bill.” Last week the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee amended it and voted it out of committee unanimously. View the markup and the vote.

As we’ve discussed in previous alerts, the passage of this bill would have dire consequences for people with psychiatric disabilities. Misled by dangerous assumptions and false media portrayals of those with psychiatric disabilities, supporters of this bill believe they are advocating for improved access to services and protection from violence.

In reality, this bill would take away basic civil and human rights of people with disabilities. People with psychiatric diagnoses are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. They are no more likely to be dangerous than their peers without psychiatric diagnoses. Regardless of these facts, proponents of this bill seem to believe that those with psychiatric diagnosis truly are different and less capable than their peers and should be treated as such.

Perhaps most importantly, this bill limits health privacy under the HIPAA rules. Section 401 of the Manager’s Amendment would establish a “Sense of Congress.” This section would write a controversial definition into law. There is substantial research showing that people diagnosed with mental illness are able to make reasonable decisions about their care as do people with other chronic health conditions. The bill ignores this evidence, limiting the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities to privacy and to control their own care.

Section 404 requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to promulgate new HIPAA privacy regulations. This creates the risk that more discrimination will be written into law consistently with the “Sense of Congress.” 

Together, these provisions justify discrimination and ignore one of the ugly truths of mental health treatment. Namely, most people with psychiatric disability have experienced trauma, often childhood trauma and often at the hands of family members. Granting family members rights to information about health care will cause harm to many people with psychiatric disabilities. We must oppose this.

In addition to the HIPPA privacy provisions, this bill contains other dangerous provisions. It would:

  • Promote greater reliance on hospitals and other institutions over community supports and
  • Bribe states to take away the right to decide their own health care for people with psychiatric disability through an “assisted outpatient treatment” grant program.

The term “assisted outpatient treatment” (AOT) is like calling robbery “assisted wealth redistribution” and is more appropriately called involuntary outpatient treatment (“IOT”). IOT has been studied extensively. It has not been shown to be effective without increased access to services.

H.R. 2646 also creates new bureaucracy within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). A new Assistant Secretary must be a doctor. Other changes threaten effective programs such as peer support and limit the role for consumers in mental health and substance use policy and programs.

Instead of encouraging mental health treatment, the discrimination this bill requires would encourage people to avoid treatment. The only sure way to avoid losing rights is to stay out of the system.

Though some of the most harmful provisions in previous versions of this bill have been softened, it is still dangerous and discriminatory. This much we know is true: Passing this bill would undo many years of disability advocacy successes that we as a community have fought so hard to achieve by dehumanizing people with psychiatric diagnoses. Please call your Representative! Ask them to oppose H.R. 2646; it is still bad for people with disabilities.

Please complete and share.

H.R. 2646 Passes out of Committee

On June 15th, H.R. 2646 (“Murphy Bill”) passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) points out, this is cause for concern:

Despite recent revisions, H.R. 2646 continues to focus on interventions that isolate and stigmatize people with mental health disabilities. It was not only written without significant participation by people with mental health disabilities but also would exclude people with mental health disabilities from positions of leadership in mental health programs.

  • H.R. 2646 would create new administrative burdens for home health care and personal attendant services for people with disabilities.
  • H.R. 2646 would subsidize long-term institutionalization of children and young adults.
  • H.R. 2646 would not ensure that people with psychiatric disabilities are represented in the programs that it would authorize.
  • H.R. 2646 promotes outdated ideas about the capacity of individuals with mental health disabilitiesincluding its apparent promotion of plenary guardianship for individuals with mental health disabilitiesand makes no mention of available alternatives to guardianship, such as supported decision-making.
  • The draft bill would urge the Department of Health and Human Services to revisit (or “clarify”) its existing HIPAA regulations in a way that could potentially expand access to protected health information without the consent of a person with a mental health disability.

Read the full press release here.

The Atlantic: “Untangling Gun Violence from Mental Illness”

Article: Untangling Gun Violence from Mental Illness

“We have a strong responsibility as researchers who study mental illness to try to debunk that myth. I say as loudly and as strongly and as frequently as I can, that mental illness is not a very big part of the problem of gun violence in the United States.”

– Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine

Murphy Bill Updates: Markup Today at 10am (webcast) and Amendment

TODAY: The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce will be reviewing new amendments to Congressman Tim Murphy’s ‘Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Bill’ this morning at 10:00 am.

AMENDMENT: Committee Chairman Upton and Ranking Member Pallone are offering a managers amendment. The amendment is essentially a new version of the bill, entirely replacing the old one. You can read it here.

WATCH: There will be a live webcast of the markup, starting approximately 10 minutes before 10am. You can watch it here.

Call to Action: HR 2646 Markup This Week

TIME SENSITIVE! Call or write before 5:00 pm on Tuesday, June 14, 2016.

The most current draft of the Murphy Bill, HB 2646, will be addressed by the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee next Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

If your House representative is on the E&C Committee CALL THEIR HOME OFFICE by the end of Tuesday, June 14. (Instructions on how to find your Rep and who to call are at the end of the announcement.)

WHETHER YOU HAVE A REP ON THE COMMITTEE OR NOT, please call the Washington offices of Chairman Fred Upton and Ranking Member Frank Pallone. Here is their contact information:

Fred Upton (R, MI), Chairman
TEL: 202-225-3761
http://upton.house.gov/contact/zipauth.htm

Frank Pallone, Jr. (D, NJ), Ranking Member
TEL: 202-225-4671
https://palloneforms.house.gov/contact/email

LEAVE A MESSAGE stating you are strongly opposed to Murphy Bill HB 2646 and you want them to vote against it on June 15, 2016.

Below are the key points for opposing the bill. More details are at our website.

Press release from NCMHR on this proposed legislation.

The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery is strongly opposed to HR 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016, for the following reasons:

Continues to weaken the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by creation of unnecessary oversight by an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health. SAMHSA has been indispensable in supporting the recovery of individuals with mental health conditions.

Would violate civil rights by authorizing new funding for assisted outpatient treatment, despite the lack of evidence that mandated outpatient treatment is effective.

Would expand Medicaid funding for institutions, rather than putting the money into evidence-based services in the community, as has been mandated by the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision.

OVERALL REACTION
The crisis in mental health care has been painted as a problem of “undeserved” rights. It is, in fact, a problem of grossly inadequate resources that are poorly allocated. Consumer-driven services in the community complement traditional mental health programs with highly effective outcomes that are significantly less expensive than other forms of community care. We recommend language and funding for peer support specialist grant programs and other consumer-driven supports.

More than 50 years after deinstitutionalization, mental health systems across the country are still unable to provide the appropriate care in the community that was promised long ago. Time and again, research has proven that the public perception of the relative “dangerousness” of people with mental health conditions is unfounded. Sensationalized, distorted media coverage and the sustained influence of some stakeholders have fueled arguments for forced treatment and an overly medicalized system of care. The march toward re-institutionalization and coercive care is abhorrent. Having a mental health condition does not constitute a life sentence to poverty, marginalization, aberrant behavior or an inability to become a fully functioning citizen who can contribute meaningfully to his/her community. We know that recovery is possible because we are the evidence.
*****

Who needs to be called? Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee should be called by their constituents:
https://energycommerce.house.gov/about-ec/energy-commerce-committee-members

Not sure who your representative is? Go to this link and type in your zip code:
http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

An icon for your representative will appear, and you should be able to locate their contact information. If you prefer email, use the address provided on your representative’s page.

However, THE BEST IMPACT will come from calls to the home district offices. The staff at the home offices will communicate with the DC staff accordingly.

Don’t see your representative on the Energy and Commerce Committee? That’s okay, you can still help by calling the Washington, DC offices of the Chairman and Ranking Member and sharing your views:

Chairman Fred Upton (R, MI)
TEL: 202-225-3761
http://upton.house.gov/contact/zipauth.htm

Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D, NJ)
TEL: 202-225-4671
https://palloneforms.house.gov/contact/email

TIME SENSITIVE! Call or write before 5:00 pm on Tuesday, June 14, 2016.