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June 2015

H.R. 2646 is an important start to making comprehensive mental health reform a reality in America. The Murphy-Johnson legislation’s emphasis on moving upstream in the process – i.e., on intervening before Stage 4 – is a critical step forward toward treating mental illnesses like we treat every other chronic disease. Mental Health America (MHA) and our 200+ affiliates and advocates around the country have been working tirelessly to address the specific faults of the original legislation.

MHA is pleased that the bill’s authors, Representative Tim Murphy (PA-18) and Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) were open to some important suggested changes and believes this version is a vast improvement. MHA will work throughout the legislative process to strengthen H.R. 2646 and is encouraged by the bi-partisan support for advancing federal legislation on mental health reform.

Below are some of the aspects of the bill that MHA supports, as well as some areas that MHA hopes to see changed as the bill continues through the legislative process:

MHA supports H.R. 2646’s emphasis on:

  • Screening and early intervention;
  • Community-based systems of care;
  • Enhancing the behavioral health workforce;
  • Innovation to develop new evidence-based programs;
  • Integration of health and behavioral health care;
  • Enforcement of parity in coverage between health and behavioral health services;
  • Incentives for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) rather than mandates;
  • Elevation of behavioral health in the federal government, including increased coordination of services; and
  • Suicide prevention based on the Garrett Lee Smith Act Reauthorization.

MHA hopes to see these changes made to H.R. 2646:

  • Provisions that best support the development of a properly-credentialed peer workforce that can work competitively in clinical settings;
  • Preservation of Protection and Advocacy organizations’ flexibility to promote recovery and non-discrimination for individuals with serious mental illness, not only to prevent abuse and neglect;
  • Funding for community mental health programs with money taken from the jail and prison system, not from other health services; and
  • Assurance that individuals with serious mental illness will be able to voluntarily access to the services associated with AOT, and that community-based services will be adequately funded.

?MHA hopes that this or other mental health reform legislation will include:

  • A national plan to end the incarceration of individuals with serious mental illnesses for nonviolent offenses within ten years;
  • Strengthening Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefits, and other coverage to promote early intervention;
  • Integration of mental health and schools, including community providers that bill insurance coordinated with Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams;
  • Scaling up of effective programs, so that the mental health system receives meaningful reforms in addition to grant funding;
  • A study to support oversight of parity in reimbursement and network participation, including as it relates to primary care, at the federal and state levels; and
  • Repeal of 42 CFR part 2, the separate authorization for substance use information, to improve integration of care and ensure that providers can treat the whole person.

Important Links:

Have questions about H.R. 2646 or Mental Health America's policy positions? Contact MHA's Senior Policy Associate, Nathaniel Counts, J.D.

Keep up to date on the latest movements and MHA statements on H.R. 2646 and other mental health care legislation by visiting our press room.

Prevention, early identification, and intervention are key to recovery. Sign the petition to show your support for #B4Stage4.