Mental Health Issues Gaining Legislative Momentum as We Move into 2014

Son Dick walks Mary back to her house.Excellence in Mental Health Act

It has been an active month in Washington, and there is much to celebrate. Legislation furthering government funding for better mental health care has been at the forefront. The Senate Finance Committee took steps toward reforming the funding of mental health care for Medicaid. The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) requires that:

  • Criteria be established for an organization to qualify as a Community Behavioral Health Center, and
  • Centers be reimbursed for Medicaid services on a reasonable cost per visit

This week during a committee hearing, Ms. Stabenow and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) proposed that an Excellence in Mental Health demonstration project be added to the Medicare bill. The National Council for Behavioral Health reported that senators from both sides of the aisle were in support of this amendment.

Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

In the other House, Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced legislation entitled “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013.” While there is much to support in this bill, there are other factors that give pause. Much has been written over the past week from major mental health organizations on the details of this bill. We encourage you to carefully read all of the position statements.

Moving the Ball Forward in 2014

All of this activity on mental health legislation is a breath of fresh air. It is significant that the 113th Congress that has passed just 15 bills this year, is actually talking about mental health issues when they do discuss legislation. Let’s remain optimistic that this momentum will carry over into 2014.

This is the time to propel your advocacy efforts into full gear. It is also time for the mental health community to come together. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that over 26% of Americans have a mental health condition – that equates to one quarter of the adult population. United we have a very strong and powerful voice that cannot be ignored. Divided we splinter into fractions that can be dismissed. Now more than ever it is important that we find common ground, agree to disagree when we cannot, and present a single united voice to our government in Washington. If we can, we can be optimistic that we will realize significant and positive reforms around access to quality mental health care in the coming year.

Your Turn

  • What do you consider the most important mental health legislative initiatives for 2014?
  • Is presenting a single united voice to Congress important?
    If so why?
    If not, why not?

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