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

Frank Pallone, Jr. (D, NJ), Ranking Member

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.

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:

Not sure who your representative is? Go to this link and type in your zip code:

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)

Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D, NJ)

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

Mental Health Legislation in the Senate: Hearings and Updates

UPDATE: February 11, 2016 – The following article from Morning Consult illustrates the complicated interplay between mental health reform and gun control efforts in Congress. As always, the critical message to our legislators and to the Administration is that mental health reform and gun violence should be addressed as separate issues. To conflate them into one policy issue amounts to scapegoating of people with mental health conditions and reinforces the faulty link between mental health and gun violence.

January 19, 2016 – Please be aware of two upcoming mental health-related hearings in the Senate. As you will see in the articles linked below, the process is likely to be fairly complicated, and we will do our best to provide updates on any significant developments and additional hearings.

Wednesday, January 20, 10:00 am

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing entitled “Improving the Federal Response to Challenges in Mental Health Care in America.” This hearing is not considering one specific piece legislation, but there will likely be discussion of both S.1945, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015, introduced by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and S.2002, the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).

Information and live stream can be accessed here. This post will be updated with the archived link to the hearing for those who cannot watch it live.

  • HELP Committee member list
  • Here is a summary of both bills referenced above, prepared by NAMI. This is not an endorsement of NAMI’s positions, but is provided for background and informational purposes only.

Tuesday, January 26, 10:00 am

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on S. 2002, the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). Please check back at this post for updates, including the live-streaming link when it is made available.

What you can do:
We invite you to engage on social media during the hearings, if you cannot be there in person. Let these committees know what you think of the conversation and what should and should not be a part of mental health legislation. Please use the hashtag #realmhchange. We will be Tweeting from @realmhchange.

Tweet your thoughts to the HELP Committee:

(Ranking Member)

Tweet your thoughts to the Judiciary Committee:

(Ranking Member)

We will update this post if there is any additional information on these hearings, or if there are opportunities for further action. Thank you for making your voice heard!

On Monday December 14, at 11:00 AM Eastern Time, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems (NAPHS) will host a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled “Nowhere to Go: How Restrictions on Psychiatric Beds Harm People with Serious Mental Illness.” The topic of the briefing is repealing the IMD exclusion in Medicaid.

What is the IMD Exclusion?

The “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” would largely repeal a Medicaid rule that prohibits federal Medicaid funds from going to individuals under 65 served in “institutions for mental diseases.” These institutions are facilities of more than 16 beds that primarily serve individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses. The IMD rule applies only to freestanding psychiatric facilities. Psychiatric inpatient care in general hospitals is covered by the Medicaid program. Psychiatric inpatient services for children 21 and under are also covered under the Medicaid program.

What’s wrong with hospital beds? Shouldn’t Medicaid pay for this?

In the 1960s, we shut down many mental institutions because they were breeding grounds for neglect, abuse, and death. Sadly, the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” days are not over. Chilling reports coming out of Western State Hospital in Washington State as well as Florida state mental hospitals show that large institutions can be unsafe places for people with psychiatric disabilities. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has created a website “Behind Closed Doors” documenting abuses by Universal Health Services Inc. (UHS), America’s largest provider of inpatient behavioral health care. If we repeal the IMD exclusion, we can expect more of these horrific reports.

The IMD rule, which has been in effect since the beginning of the Medicaid program, was designed to limit the warehousing of people with mental health disabilities in psychiatric institutions. This Medicaid rule was enacted two years after the 1963 Community Mental Health Centers Act, at a time when the country had begun to shift away from large psychiatric institutions and develop community-based mental health services. It has been an important incentive for mental health systems to develop community services rather than relying solely on institutional care.

Who would benefit from repeal of the IMD exclusion?

Definitely not people diagnosed with mental health conditions, their families, or people who work in psychiatric hospitals. Who WOULD benefit is the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems (NAPHS), who is a co-sponsor of this briefing and whose leadership is composed of the top brass in the psychiatric institution industry, including UHS. They would stand to gain billions from this repeal, and are lobbying hard to have it passed.

So if repealing the IMD Exclusion isn’t the answer, what is?

The root of the problem with the mental health system is the lack of comprehensive community-based services that help prevent crisis in the first place. Too often, people cannot obtain services until they are in crisis. Then, they are usually taken to a general hospital (usually an emergency room) or have an encounter with law enforcement. After their hospitalization or involvement with the criminal justice system (often including incarceration), they return to the community without needed services. The response to this vicious cycle is not to build more inpatient beds or to keep incarcerating people, but instead to invest in intensive community-based services that avoid and de-escalate crises, prevent hospitalization, and help people returning to the community to get the support they need. The mental health system needs more funding for services such as mobile crisis teams, crisis respite houses, family and peer supports, and supportive housing — not more institutions. According to the Corporation for Supportive Housing, “cost studies in six different states and cities found that supportive housing results in tenants’ decreased use of homeless shelters, hospitals, emergency rooms, jails and prisons.”

What you can do:

Starting at 11:00 AM on Monday, December 14, Tweet to your or post to their Facebook wall and tell them #HousingNotAsylums!

Our Twitter accounts: @RealMHChange

Sponsors’ Twitter accounts: ;

Use HashTags: #RealMHChange #protectPAIMI #HousingNotAsylums

Sample Tweets:

  • We need #HousingNotAsylums! Community not institutions!
  • Repealing the IMD exclusion will line corporate pockets, while our communities stay impoverished.
  • #HR2646 is a rollback to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, NOT the #realmhchange we need! #housingnotasylums
  • #RealMHChange is crisis respite services that help people and save money — NOT #HR2646
  • “I’d rather die than go back to the hospital.” Crisis respite houses are a great alternative.
  • Spend $$ on community-based #mentalhealth services that work, not institutions. #realmhchange
  • Crisis respites save lives and dollars! #housingnotasylums
  • Move #mentalhealth services closer to the community, not farther away into hospitals. #HousingNotAsylums
  • #HR2646 promotes hospitalization for #mentalhealth needs best cared for in the community. #RealMHChange
  • Over-reliance on hospitalization is expensive & less effective than community-based mental health care. #RealMHChange
  • #RealMHChange is funding prevention of crisis. #HR2646 would fuel a crisis based system.