House Passes Major Mental Health Legislation
The House of Representatives last night passed the 21st Century Cures Act by a vote of 392-26. This wide-ranging, $6 billion bipartisan health legislation includes significant mental health components and had the support of the Obama administration.
The new act embeds medical leadership in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), improves how the federal government finances and manages evidence-based mental health services, promotes workforce development and integrated care, and toughens the enforcement of mental health parity.
“This legislation will greatly benefit our patients with mental illness and substance use disorders,” said APA President Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D., in a statement. “The bill strengthens existing parity laws so that mental illness is treated just like any other illness, and it better coordinates the efforts of federal agencies responsible for treating mental illness.”
The bill incorporates elements of legislation previously put forth by Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) in the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act as well as provisions in the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, sponsored by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
These are some of the provisions that the legislation includes:
• Appointment of a chief medical officer at SAMHSA who must hold a medical degree and have experience treating patients with mental illness or substance use disorders.
• $1 billion in state grants to address the opioid epidemic.
• Grants for promoting integrated care models for primary care and behavioral health care services.
• Grants for training programs like as the APA Foundation’s Typical or Troubled? program, which trains school officials to identify students who may need mental health care.
• Request for “clarification” of the permitted uses and disclosures of health information covered by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.
“With the House passage, we urge the Senate to pass this important legislation before adjourning for the year,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “Our mental health system needs to be retooled to meet the growing demands of our patients.”