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Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have now introduced the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S. 2680, formerly S. 1945). While Mental Health America has not yet formally endorsed it or its House counterpart, we consider it another important step toward making comprehensive mental health reform a reality in America.

It builds on H.R. 2646, the Murphy-Johnson proposal introduced two months ago in the House, incorporating many of the provisions that Mental Health America has made a priority in our advocacy for many years.

Based on what we’ve now seen and heard, we hope and expect that the differences and details can be ironed out in language we all can ultimately endorse.  We urge mental health supporters to work with us to ask Congress to pass comprehensive mental health reform legislation this year. The framework is now there and while it may be imperfect it is an opportunity to do some good.  Let’s not let the opportunity pass.

MHA supports S.1945's emphasis on: 

  • Reinforcing many of the strongest provisions of H.R. 2646 with similar language, such as:
    • Screening and early intervention;
    • Community-based systems of care;
    • Enhancing the behavioral health workforce;
    • Innovation to develop new evidence-based programs;
    • Elevation of behavioral health in the federal government, including increased coordination;
  • Inclusion of specific dollar authorizations and increased funding for historically effective programs;
  • Preservation of Protection and Advocacy’s flexibility to promote recovery and non-discrimination for individuals with serious mental illness, not only to prevent abuse and neglect;
  • Additional support for parity enforcement and transparency; and
  • Additional funding for the behavioral health workforce, including peer specialists.

MHA hopes to see these changes made to S. 1945:

  • Provisions that best support the development of a properly-credentialed peer workforce that can work competitively in clinical settings;
  • Inclusion of important grant programs from HR 2646 that are not in the Senate’s companion bill;
  • Funding for community mental health programs with money taken from the jail and prison system, not from other health services;

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.

?For more information about what MHA hopes to see in mental health reform legislation, visit our legislative priorities page

Important Links: 

Have questions about S. 1945 or Mental Health America's policy positions? Contact MHA's Senior Policy Associate, Nathaniel Counts, J.D.

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