Statement by Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO, Mental Health America
"Mental Health America applauds the introduction of the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 by Senators Bill Cassidy and Christopher Murphy. It is another important step toward making comprehensive mental health reform a reality in America.
“This legislation and H.R. 2646 [The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015]—while not identical—are similar in many ways. We support both bills’ emphasis on screening and early intervention; community-based systems of care; enhancing the behavioral health workforce; innovation to develop new evidence-based programs; prevention; integration of health and behavioral health care, including measures to facilitate the sharing of health data needed for care integration; enforcement of parity in coverage between health and behavioral health services; and the elevation of behavioral health in the federal government, including increased coordination of services. These are all essential components of a sound care delivery system.
“In addition, both proposals reflect a growing energy in Washington around mental health that we have not seen in years to move upstream in addressing mental health issues – and not wait for crises to occur first.
“We are happy to see funding levels included in this proposal – because we need new money for new services, not just dollars borrowed from other mental health programs. We are also pleased to see the preservation of Protection and Advocacy organizations’ flexibility to promote recovery and non-discrimination for individuals with serious mental illness.
“But we would still like to see more to support children with mental illness, including integrating special education and clinical services; more choice of services and supports for adults in recovery, including housing and employment support; and a commitment to end the incarceration of nonviolent offenders with mental illness within ten years.
“Like their counterparts in the House – Representatives Tim Murphy and Eddie Bernice Johnson - Senators Cassidy and Murphy have taken another step in the right direction to address the failures that so obviously exist in our mental health system. They are to be commended for their effort and applauded for their willingness to stand up and be counted.
“We urge Congress to pass comprehensive mental health reform legislation this year. The framework is now there and hopefully the details can now be ironed out in language we all can ultimately endorse. The time is now to erase the discrimination and stigma surrounding mental illness, to address mental health before Stage 4, and to intervene effectively to save lives and change the trajectories of people living with mental illnesses.”
About Mental Health America
Mental Health America is the nation’s leading community-based non-profit dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. Our work is driven by our commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated care and treatment for those who need it—with recovery as the goal.