March 7, 2016

Cassidy, Murphy, Alexander, Murray Introduce Plan to Address Mental Health Crisis in America

WASHINGTON— A bipartisan group of Senate health committee members, including the Chairman and Ranking Member, today announced their plan to address the country’s mental health crisis and ensure Americans suffering from mental illness and substance abuse disorders receive the care they need.


The bipartisan draft legislation works to bring our mental health care system into the 21st Century by embracing mental health research and innovation, giving states the flexibility they need to meet the needs of those suffering, and improving access to care.


“Our mental health system is broken—the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 begins to fix it,” said Dr. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). “We have all seen a promising life destroyed by untreated mental illness. Destroying not just the person, but also their family. By focusing and making resources available for patients and families, we can help restore mental health to the emotionally broken. I thank Senators Murphy, Alexander and Murray for joining me in this priority.”


“One in five adults in this country suffers from a mental illness, and nearly 60 percent aren’t receiving the treatment they need,” said Senate health committee Chairman Alexander (R-Tenn.). “This bill will help address this crisis by ensuring our federal programs and policies incorporate proven, scientific approaches to improve care for patients. States like Tennessee and local governments are on the forefront in treating mental illness and substance abuse, and this legislation will support their efforts so people can get the help they need.”


“I hear far too often from families in my home state of Washington and across the country about loved ones who are unable to get mental health care they desperately need, with tragic consequences,” said Senate health committee Ranking Member Murray (D-Wash.). “Our mental health system has been broken for far too long, and I’m pleased that Democrats and Republicans were able to break through the gridlock and agree on policies to help deliver quality, integrated care to our neighbors, friends, and loved ones who struggle with mental illness.” 


“Our mental health care system is failing those who need it most. Individuals struggling with mental illness may go years without receiving treatment, ultimately suffering in isolation, or being cast aside and abandoned by the very system they should be relying on. Too many Americans with serious mental illness slip through the cracks, and Congress must act to stop it,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).  “I’m grateful that Senators Alexander and Murray worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Senator Cassidy and me to craft this bipartisan compromise. This bill already represents the biggest reforms that Congress has seen in decades, and I’ll keep working with both Republicans and Democrats on the HELP Committee to make it even stronger.”


At the previously announced March 16th markup, Senators Alexander, Murray, Cassidy, and Murphy plan to introduce additional measures to strengthen access to and quality of mental health care as part of a manager’s amendment. The HELP Committee will also consider legislation at the March 16th markup to help tackle the opioid epidemic by addressing treatment, prevention, and other efforts to fight opioid addiction and abuse.




Ensure that mental health programs are effectively serving those with mental illness: The bill will improve coordination between federal agencies and departments that provide services for individuals with mental illness, and will improve accountability and evaluations of mental health programs.


Help states meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness: This bill helps to ensure that federal dollars support states in providing quality mental health care for individuals suffering from mental illness by updating the block grant for states.


Promotes the use of evidence-based approaches, promising best practices in mental health care: The bill requires that the federal agencies and programs involved in mental health policy incorporate the most up-to-date approaches for treating mental illness, and requires that agency leadership include mental health professionals who have practical experience. 


Increase access to mental health care: The bill increases access to care for individuals including veterans, homeless individuals, women, and children. It also helps improve the training for those who care for those with mental illnesses, and promotes better enforcement of existing mental health parity laws.


Click HERE for text of the staff discussion draft.

Click HERE for a summary of the draft. A more detailed version can be found HERE.