Friday, May 27, 2016

APA President, U.S. Senators Call for Continued Support for Mental Health Reform

A bipartisan group of senators welcomed APA President Maria Oquendo, M.D., and other mental health experts to Capitol Hill yesterday as part of an ongoing effort to pass the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S.2680) before the end of the year.

“As a nation we have failed to meet the needs of Americans with mental illness,” Oquendo told senators and advocates gathered for the event. “We have a fragmented delivery and reimbursement system, we deal with workforce shortages and obsolete regulations, and we face the enduring stigma surrounding mental illness. As a nation we must do better and we can do better.”

The Mental Health Reform Act would improve access to care by increasing the number of providers, disseminating the best scientific research, integrating physical and mental health care, and bolstering coordination among federal mental health agencies, said bill coauthor Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

His colleague and coauthor from across the aisle, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), described the step-by-step process of gathering support among fellow senators, including eight Democratic and eight Republican cosponsors, to move the bill closer to passage.

“The Act is the first attempt in the House and the Senate to take a holistic look at a broken system,” said Murphy. “We assessed the problem as being three-fold: a lack of resources, a lack of coordination, and a lack of focus on this continuing stigma.”

In thanking the senators for their efforts, Oquendo said, “APA is very encouraged that the components of meaningful mental health reform are addressed in the bill.” She also called for more support for research at NIMH, NIDA, and NIAAA, as well as a greater emphasis on preventing mental illness.

Cassidy and Murphy emphasized the importance of grassroots support of mental health reform in the months ahead.

“Even in this election year, we can still pass the Mental Health Reform Act and get it signed by the president,” said Cassidy. 

In a blog post describing the event, Oquendo noted, “APA is committed to ensuring that comprehensive mental health reform becomes a reality, and is engaged in lobbying both the House and Senate as they move toward committee votes on these bills. I urge you to reach out to your representatives in Congress and urge them to support comprehensive mental health reform. If we work together, we can eliminate the shortfalls in our current mental health care system, and achieve better and lasting outcomes for our patients and their families.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Comprehensive MH Reform Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate.”

(Image: Aaron Levin)


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