Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Major Health Legislation Passes Final Hurdle

By a vote of 94-5, the U.S. Senate today passed the 21st Century Cures Act, one of whose goals is to improve and reform the American mental health system. The House passed the same legislation a week ago, and it now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature

“The bipartisan passage of the 21st Century Cures Act is an example of the progress we can make when people from both parties work together to improve the health of our families, friends, and neighbors,” said the president in a statement.

The bill includes elements of legislation previously put forth by Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) in the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, as well as provisions in the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, sponsored by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

APA noted its approval of the Senate action.

“This long-awaited and much-needed mental health reform will help to increase access to care and improve the quality of care for people with mental health and substance use disorders, especially for the 13 million Americans living with serious mental illness,” said APA President Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D., in a statement. “The bill will toughen enforcement of existing parity laws, helping to ensure that mental health care services are covered just like other health care services.”

These are among the legislation's provisions:

  • Reauthorizing grants to support integrated care models so that mental health professionals can work more closely with primary care doctors.
  • Reauthorizing grants for training programs, such as the APA Foundation’s Typical or Troubled? program, which trains school officials to identify students in need of mental health services.
  • Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan to ensure enforcement of federal parity laws that mandate that insurers cover mental illness the same as any other disorder.
  • Providing $1 billion in state grants to address the opioid epidemic.

“We look forward to working with the administration and Congress to help ensure resources are available for full implementation,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A.

(Image: kropic1/


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