MHW: Senate Health Committee Moves Forward To Address MH Crisis

NYAPRS Note: According to SAMHSA, nearly 60% of adults with mental health conditions did not receive mental health services in 2014. This data, in part, has prompted Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, to announce that he and the committee plan to “move promptly” to offer bipartisan recommendations to address mental health.

As many of you know, there are several bills in both houses of Congress that purportedly address our community’s best interests. Although we commend those who seek to improve access to and funding for a range of community-based mental health related services, we will remain vigilant to ensure that legislation does not take our community backward. We expect this to be an active year in Congress on this issue. Stay tuned…


Senate Health Committee Moves Forward To Address MH Crisis

Mental Health Weekly January 25, 2016


Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said the Senate health committee plans to “move promptly” to offer bipartisan recommendations to help address the mental health crisis affecting about one in five American adults during a committee hearing on January 21. “A 2014 national survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that … 9.8 million adults had serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression that interferes with a major life activity,” Alexander said in a press release. “However, nearly 60 percent of adults with mental illness did not receive mental health services in 2014.”


“Mental health conditions that remain untreated can lead to dropping out of school, substance abuse, incarceration, unemployment, homelessness and suicide,” Alexander said during the hearing, “Improving the Federal Response to Challenges in Mental Health Care in America.”


“The committee has done a great deal of work on this subject,” he said. “On September 30, 2015, this committee passed S. 1893, the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2015, introduced by Senator [Patty] Murray [D-Wash.] and myself. This bill, cosponsored by many members of the committee, reauthorizes and improves programs administered by the Department of Health and Human Services related to awareness, prevention and early identification of mental health conditions. The Senate passed this important piece of legislation on December 18, 2015.


“Senators [Bill] Cassidy [R-La.] and [Chris] Murphy [D-Conn.] have introduced legislation, and Sen. Murray and I have been working with them. We hope to move promptly to bring recommendations before the full committee. Not everything the Senate may want to do is within the jurisdiction of this committee. We’re working with Sen. [Roy] Blunt [RMo.], who is the chairman of the Senate’s health appropriations subcommittee, on ideas that he’s proposed — as well as with Sen. John Cornyn [R-Texas] on issues that the Judiciary Committee is considering and the Senate Finance Committee, which will also be involved.”


During the hearing, Sen. Murray said that only 63 percent of people with serious mental illness received treatment in the past year. She noted that “far too many communities” lack access to treatment. Murray also called for workforce development and the integration of mental health and physical health care. “Treatment and support can make a difference” for people living with mental illness, she said.