WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), members of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Wednesday noted the growing support for their legislation to reauthorize the historic federal mental health and substance use disorder programs that were signed into law in 2016 as part of their Mental Health Reform Act before they are set to expire in September. The Mental Health Reform Reauthorization Act of 2022 (S.4170) also addresses COVID-19’s devastating impact on the national mental health crisis, especially among children, by building upon the 2016 legislation to improve and expand those programs.
The legislation would strengthen existing mental health and substance use disorder parity laws, improve community mental health services, expand access to pediatric mental health care, increase recruitment of a diverse mental health workforce, and provide a path to recovery for vulnerable individuals. You can read more about the bill here.
Below is a roundup of support for the Mental Health Reform Reauthorization Act from providers, non-profits, and advocacy organizations:
“This bill simply could not come at a more critical moment. These resources would markedly enhance the capacities of behavioral health systems and providers to provide the high quality care that people need and deserve, including crisis services and programs that integrate mental health, substance use and physical needs, and to attract, support and retain the workforce necessary to do so,” said Michael Flaum, MD, President, American Association for Community Psychiatry.
“The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy applauds Senators Chris Murphy and Bill Cassidy, M.D. for introducing the Mental Health Reform Reauthorization Act. This important legislation will reauthorize many critical federal mental health and substance use disorder programs that were first authorized under the Mental Health Reform Act. This reauthorization is needed in order to tackle the ongoing behavioral health crisis. Among other things, this legislation will increase funding to SAMHSA’s Minority Fellowship Program, which will lead to an increase in the number of family therapists and other behavioral health professionals providing culturally competent mental health and substance use disorders services to underserved populations. AAMFT supports this critical legislation and urges Congress to pass this legislation before the end of September,” said Tracy Todd, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
“Public service workers have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic to keep our communities safe, healthy and strong, often putting themselves and their families at risk in the process. However, a federal loophole currently allows state and local governments to shortchange these workers’ coverage of vital mental health and addiction benefits many depend on to cope with and heal from the challenges they face in their lives. We urge Congress to address this issue by passing the Mental Health Reform Reauthorization Act of 2022 to close this loophole, and we applaud Senators Cassidy and Murphy for leading this effort. No one, especially our everyday heroes, should have to jump through hoops or worry about going bankrupt when trying to access essential mental health services,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders.
“Suicide can be prevented, and we know that intervention and prevention programs are necessary to save lives,” said Laurel Stine, J.D., M.A., Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “The bipartisan Mental Health Reform Reauthorization Act of 2022 would support the needs of children, adolescents and adults with or at risk of a serious mental health condition or experiencing a suicidal crisis, and AFSP applauds Senators Murphy and Cassidy for collaborative policy making to renew and expand integral mental health programs, and to strengthen parity enforcement.”
“The American Psychiatric Association commends Senators Murphy and Cassidy for their leadership to develop this important proposal, including their continued efforts to champion enforcement of the mental health parity law. COVID has highlighted the need for mental health care. We look forward to working with them to continue to add the resources our nation needs to address our urgent mental health crisis,” said Dr. Saul Levin, American Psychiatric Association CEO and Medical Director.
“We commend Senators Murphy and Cassidy for championing this important bill that will help grow and diversify the addiction medicine physician workforce and strengthen mental health and addiction parity across the country. For too long, addiction medicine has been siloed from the rest of health care and health plans have treated addiction differently from other types of chronic diseases—with devastating results. With the addiction and overdose crisis in the United States accelerating during the pandemic, both ensuring parity in insurance coverage for substance use disorder and other mental health conditions and strengthening and diversifying the addiction medicine physician workforce are vital steps to ensure more Americans can access the treatment they need,” said William F. Haning, III, MD, DLFAPA, DFASAM, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
“We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Murphy and Cassidy for introducing this important legislation,” said Dr. Andy Shih, Chief Science Officer for Autism Speaks. “Many autistic individuals have co-occurring mental health conditions; unfortunately, the resources and health care services they need are often either scarce or inaccessible. Despite federal mental health parity protections, too often, autistics are still inappropriately denied access to medically necessary care. This bill will go a long way to close some of those mental health parity gaps in insurance coverage; and by reauthorizing and enhancing existing mental health programs, will make more resources available for communities to help meet the mental health needs of autistic individuals across the spectrum and throughout the life span.”
“As a provider of behavioral health crisis services, we’re thrilled to see bipartisan support for improving access to mental health and substance use care. This bill is perfectly timed with the upcoming launch of the new 988 mental health emergency number. It helps build the crisis services that callers will need and helps states ensure that insurance plans provide parity coverage for mental health care as for other kinds of health emergencies,” said Margie Balfour, MD, PhD, Chief of Quality & Clinical Innovation, Connections Health Solutions.
“We need to close the treatment gap by ensuring parity coverage by health insurance plans, help people get their lives back on track with crisis services, and support the well-being of our children with prevention and early intervention services,” said Bill Smith, Founder and President of Inseparable. “This bill makes progress in all these areas and will provide real help to people struggling with their mental health.”
“Mental Health America (MHA) applauds the leadership of Senators Murphy and Cassidy in introducing this important legislation,” said Schroeder Stribling, President and CEO of Mental Health America. “We are particularly grateful for the bill’s emphasis on moving upstream to address mental health conditions and meet urgent needs across the continuum from early identification and intervention to crisis care.”
“Amid record levels of overdose deaths and a worsening mental health crisis, support for these programs is needed more than ever and must not be allowed to expire. Strengthening parity enforcement and closing loopholes in the law will ensure that people are not denied the lifesaving care to which they are entitled, and expanding access to pediatric mental health care will help address the current youth mental health crisis and prevent future substance use and addiction. We commend Senators Murphy and Cassidy for introducing this legislation and urge swift passage,” said Linda Richter, Vice President, Prevention Research and Analysis, Partnership to End Addiction.
“On behalf of Otsuka, a leader in mental health, I am incredibly appreciative of the important work that Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), have done to introduce the landmark Mental Health Reform Reauthorization Act,” said Tarek Rabah, President & CEO, Otsuka North America Pharmaceutical Business. “America’s mental health is in crisis. Strengthening resources and enhancing access to proper mental health care for all are critical steps in addressing mental illness as the chronic condition that it is.”
“The Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance strongly supports the Mental Health Reform Reauthorization Act introduced by Sens. Murphy and Cassidy. The legislation provides urgently needed funding to improve community resources for people with serious brain diseases such as schizophrenia, as well as training grants to equip more professionals to properly care for people who live with these diseases. These services are essential to helping people with severe brain diseases recover and thrive,” said Gordon Lavigne, CEO, Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance.
“Our country is facing an ongoing mental health crisis, which has only grown more dire during the pandemic,” said Daniel H. Gillison Jr., Chief Executive Officer the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “We need bipartisan, common-sense solutions to help all people affected by mental health conditions get the care they need. NAMI is grateful to Senators Murphy and Cassidy for their leadership on this legislative package, including record authorization levels for the Community Mental Health Block Grant and important provisions to help communities reimagine crisis response. We’re thankful for the Senators’ bipartisan collaboration to address the mental health crisis, and hope for the bill’s passage in a swift and timely manner so communities can access these vital resources.”