More Details on House E&C Committee Members' Comprehensive Behavioral Health System Reform Bill

NYAPRS Note: Please find a news release, summary and attached bill text of the new “Comprehensive Behavioral Health System Reform Bill” that has been developed and released this morning by Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the same committee that is also reviewing Congressman Tim Murphy’s previously released H.R.2646.

In addition to what we shared earlier this morning (, the release below indicates that NY Congressman Paul Tonko included in this bill a critically important requirement for hospital based registries that indicates where open psychiatric beds are available. Senator Creigh Dedes recently sued his home state of Virginia for failure to provide such notification, the tragic outcome of which was that he was not informed about and unable to get a bed for his son Gus, who thereafter attached his Dad and completed suicide. Such a registry is far preferable to opening the “IMD exclusion” to Medicaid to expand hospital beds in state and private psychiatric hospitals. We need more Medicaid and higher expectations of our community systems, not more beds that too often represent system failures.  


House Energy & Commerce Committee Members Introduce Comprehensive Behavioral Health System Reform Bill


To advance efforts on mental health and substance use disorder legislation, Committee Members outline Democratic priorities for reform


Washington, D.C. � Today, Congressman Gene Green (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee, along with five members of the Committee, introduced the Comprehensive Behavioral Health Reform and Recovery Act of 2016.


The bill increases investments in services and resources across the entire spectrum of mental health care, reflecting policy priorities put forth by Democratic members during ongoing Health Subcommittee efforts this Congress. 


“It is long past time for Congress to craft policies for the behavioral health system that parallel our approach to physical illnesses – policies that address prevention as well as crisis care,” said the bill’s authors. “Any efforts at mental health care reform must transform our system from the ground up, and this legislation provides a pivotal foundation from which to build as mental health reform discussions continue in Congress.” 


Bill authors highlight specific provisions of the comprehensive legislation:


"We've worked hard to pull all of the best ideas into one, non-partisan, comprehensive package. Reforming the mental and behavioral health systems must be done in a way that best supports Americans and families touched by mental and behavioral health issues," said Congressman Green. "This bill includes key provisions to update the use of Medicaid for care and removes barriers to home and community based mental health services. It represents our best ideas, and we are eager to kick start the discussion and move the process forward toward enacting a strong, comprehensive and transformative law."


“There is broad consensus that our mental health system needs substantial reforms to better serve patients," said Congresswoman DeGette. "I am proud to be part of a strong, comprehensive effort to further the discussion about how we make these needed reforms, and I am especially happy that the Comprehensive Behavioral Health Reform and Recovery Act supports more preventive and community-based care.”


“It is our shared goal that this legislation advances a larger discussion in Congress and serves as a platform for comprehensive mental health reform,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “We have worked tirelessly to find compromises that outline a path to reform that provides resources for prevention, as well as crisis care, so that patients have the support they need at whatever stage they are in their illness. I’m particularly pleased that this package contains provisions that I have long advocated for, from clarifying what can and cannot be shared under HIPAA law, to expanding the Excellence in Mental Health demonstration to ensure that more states have an opportunity to benefit from high quality, evidenced-based, and community-driven mental health care.”


"Mental health should be treated no differently than physical health. If your arm is broken, it is covered and you see a doctor. The same should be true with mental illness,” said Congressman Tonko. “Today's announcement includes a number of thoughtful, bipartisan ideas that achieve this end. Some of the many ideas I worked hardest to include are a bed registry program, repealing the 190-day lifetime cap for Medicare patients on psychiatric hospital stays, the TREAT Act, grants to help those with mental illness better re-enter society and including occupational therapists in our treatment of mental health well-being. I commend my colleagues for a sustained and tireless focus on these issues and hope we can advance these solutions in a timely manner."


“As someone whose mother struggled with mental health issues, I have experienced firsthand the necessity of timely and proper care,” said Congressman Loebsack. “I have long advocated for improving coordination between physical care and mental health care, so I am pleased that this package contains provisions I have championed to improve primary and mental health care integration. It is far past time that we start treating mental health for what it is – a medical condition affecting the brain that deserves the same level of treatment as any other condition.”


“Failure to invest in our mental health system’s full continuum of care has allowed too many Americans to fall through the cracks and suffer in silence,” said Congressman Kennedy. “Whether through meaningful reform to Medicaid's mental health coverage or by holding insurers accountable for violations of parity laws, this legislation will fill many of the gaps that have plagued our broken system for too long. With the support of our colleagues, we can pass this bill and ensure patients have access to the care and treatment they deserve.”


For a Section-by-SectionClick Here

For the Text of the LegislationClick Here

For a One-Pager on the LegislationClick Here



Comprehensive Behavioral Health and Recovery Act of 2016 Fact Sheet


The Comprehensive Behavioral Health and Recovery Act bolsters our ability to serve individuals with mental health conditions and substance use disorders across the full continuum of care.

  • It includes comprehensive reform that will improve the U.S. behavioral health care system.
  • It focuses on the full continuum of care from early intervention and prevention, to crisis intervention, to supporting treatment and recovery.
  • It focuses on improving the entire behavioral health system to ensure that individuals with mental illness, including serious mental illness, substance use disorders, or co-occurring conditions get the services and supports that they need to recover.
  • Comprehensive reform must represent the best ideas on improving our behavioral health care system
  • It includes ideas from legislation such as the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015, the Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act, and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015.
  • It incorporates ideas and proposals generated from numerous meetings with stakeholder groups to better understand the behavioral health system and how to improve it.
  • True mental health reform fills in gaps by providing new funding for individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders.
  • It bolsters the behavioral health workforce by investing in education and training programs such as a new peer professional workforce development grant program, a new grant program for the development and implementation of curricula for continuing education on serious mental illness, and a new grant program on health professions competencies to address racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender minority behavioral health disparities.
  • It fills in much needed gaps in the federal investment in behavioral health programs including creating a new adult trauma program and adult suicide prevention program.
  • It strengthens access to care by strengthening parity enforcement, investing in primary and behavioral health care integration, investing in the development of behavioral health crisis system, investing in improving mental and behavioral health services on college campuses, and by investing in assertive community treatment programs for individuals with serious mental illness while preserving patient privacy rights and enhancing education and clarity on HIPAA.
  • It includes provisions that build on the Administration’s efforts to responsibly update the use of Medicaid inpatient psychiatric care, improve the benefits people receive in these facilities, and remove outdated statutory barriers to home and community based mental health services in the Medicaid program.
  • It tackles the upstream and downstream problems spurring the opioid epidemic by focusing on prescriber education, substance abuse treatment, and recovery services. 

House Dem Bill