NYAPRS Note: The following comes to us our coalition partners at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Please act and share today!
The US House of Representatives recently voted to pass the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015(H.R. 2646). Although disability advocates across the nation worked to make sure that many harmful provisions in the original draft of this bill were removed or modified, this bill still has many parts that would hurt our community by undermining privacy, promoting institutionalization over community-based services, and creating new committees with almost no self-advocate representation.
But there’s still time to stop this. The harmful parts of H.R. 2646 will only become law if the Senate decides to add them to its own mental health bill, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680), or to insert them into some other Senate bill.
Contact your Senators and tell them that you don’t want them to put these parts of H.R. 2646 into S. 2680 - or any other bill. We support S.2680 as currently passed and want the Senate to pass it the way it is, without adding language from H.R. 2646.
Here are some talking points that you can use. Ask your Senator to keep this language from H.R. 2646 out of the Senate bills:
- Sections 111, 110(b), and 501(b) would create new advisory councils and projects without meaningful self-advocate representation. We want any new committees or advisory councils to have at least ⅓ of membership be people with lived experience with psychiatric disability.
- Sec. 206 would help states pay for long-term institutionalization of children. In the past, states have had to pay for these services themselves until after the child was returned to the community. We don’t want to make it even easier for states to institutionalize children with psychiatric disabilities.
- Sec. 207 would add new barriers to people getting in-home services under Medicaid. This section would require personal attendant care services to use electronic visit verification (EVV) systems to document their visits to a patient. Electronic visit verification systems not always practical and may make it harder for people to get Medicaid to pay for their services, without meaningfully reducing fraud.
- Section 503 would increase and extend funding for coercive, court-ordered treatment programs (known as “assisted outpatient treatment”). We do not think that medication decisions should be made by courts. Court involvement stigmatizes people with psychiatric disabilities. It can also make it harder for people to change doctors or medications when they experience side effects or when medication is not working.
- Sec. 401. Sense of Congress on Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): This section uses language that encourages guardianship arrangements that take away decision-making rights from people with psychiatric disabilities. It also says that people with psychiatric disabilities aren’t able to be responsible for their own treatment, even with supports.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION
Contact your U.S. Senator’s office and ask your Senator to keep this harmful language out of the Senate mental health bills. We don’t want the Senate to support provisions that would limit the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities and add to stereotypes and misconceptions. Ask your Senator instead to support S. 2680 as it is.