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Federal Legislation: H.R. 2646 – the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

Beth Hess - Tuesday, November 10, 2015

On November 4, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee passed H.R. 2646, sponsored by Representatives Tim Murphy, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas. H.R. 2646 seeks to make sweeping reforms to the mental health care system in America, and contains many important provisions, including:

  • integrating physical and mental health care
  • establishing new grant programs for early intervention
  • strengthening parity provisions
  • improving mental health services within Medicare and Medicaid
The legislation is not without controversy, however. While most advocates support many provisions of the bill, there are a number of concerns, some of which are especially pertinent to children’s mental health:
  • The bill promotes a narrow, professionally-focused and -run system of care, diminishing the importance of peer and family voice and control.
  • The bill restricts funding for primary prevention programs.
  • Early identification and screening provisions apply only to psychosis, ignoring other prevalent psychiatric diagnoses including depression, anxiety, PTSD and addictions.

It seems likely that some legislative reform of America’s mental health care system will occur in the next year.  Since the bill will be extensively amended as it goes through the legislative process, the exact shape of that reform remains to be seen.


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