Rights Talking Points

Tell Your Congressional Representative: Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) Hurts People with Psychiatric Diagnoses!

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646), introduced by Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), of Pennsylvania,  is a sweeping bill that promises “reform,”  but would actually return the nation’s state mental health systems  to many of the failed policies of the past.  The bill can be downloaded at: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/IF/IF14/20150616/103615/BILLS-1142646ih.pdf

Among other harmful measures, provisions of the Murphy Bill would:
  • Increase forced treatment
  • Limit the scope of the federal protection and advocacy system
  • Increase institutionalization
  • Weaken HIPAA privacy protections
  • Undermine independent peer support by narrowly defining the service as an adjunct to clinical services and by eliminating funding for peer-run TA centers and statewide networking grants

Increase forced treatment: The bill would increase forced treatment by offering states financial incentives to implement Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC) laws (misleadingly referred to in the bill as Assisted Outpatient Treatment or ‘AOT’).  IOC permits forced medication and imposes additional limitations and restrictions on people who do not meet the criteria for inpatient commitment (e.g., not “dangerous to self or others”).  It is not, as the bill states, a community-based alternative to institutionalization, but rather a drastic measure that impinges upon people’s right to self-determination.

Limit the scope of the federal Protection and Advocacy system:  The bill would drastically curtail the scope of the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) program the federally funded program charged with advocating for and protecting the human, civil and legal rights of individuals with psychiatric diagnoses. The bill would strip state PAIMI programs of most of their authority and would prohibit them from providing advocacy and legal representation to people on important issues, including housing, employment, education, community living, and Medicaid benefits. Advocacy concerning anything other than abuse and neglect would be barred.

Increase institutionalization:  The bill would eliminate a Medicaid funding provision known as the IMD (Institutions for Mental Diseases) exclusion, which prohibits the use of Medicaid financing of psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes larger than 16 beds.  This provision has historically been an important check on the expansion of institutionalization in state hospitals; its elimination would financially incentivize states to implement re-institutionalization.

Weaken HIPAA privacy protections:  The bill weakens the privacy protections of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by permitting the release of an adult’s diagnosis, treatment plans, medication plans, and other information to family members against the person’s will.

Undermine independent peer support: Several provisions of the bill would serve to undermine independent peer support organizations and activities.  First, the bill would fund a very narrowly defined  type of “peer specialist services” that would essentially relegate peer support to functioning as a lower-paid adjunct to clinical services.  This would be devastating to existing independent peer-run organizations that currently provide genuine peer support services in many states.  In addition, the bill would put at risk federal funding for existing peer-run consumer technical assistance centers and for SAMHSA statewide consumer networking grants.

What you can do:

  1. Write a letter to the editor or an Op Ed piece for your local newspaper
  2. Contact your Congressional Representative and urge them to oppose the Murphy Bill (HR 2646). Contact information is at: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
  3. Urge others to take a stand against the bill.

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