The NCIL Mental Health Civil Rights Subcommittee has been working on federal mental health legislation over the past few years. We have covered this topic in the Advocacy Monitor. This is our update and request for help.
The House of Representatives passed an amended version of H.R. 2646 in June by a wide margin. The bill is now before the Senate.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed its own comprehensive mental health and substance use services bill, S. 2680, earlier this year. That bill can be called for a vote any time leadership decides to do so. NCIL supports S. 2680 as passed by the Senate HELP Committee. This bill reauthorizes mental health and substance use programs for the first time in over a decade. It is a truly bipartisan bill. We support it despite the fact that it does not provide a greater consumer voice and other provisions of our policy platform because:
- It builds on the community-based mental health systems, including peer support services (that many states have already invested in) instead of favoring coercive treatment.
- It acknowledges the important work done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in transforming mental health services over the past few decades.
- It recognizes the crucial role of the Protection and Advocacy system.
We recognize that the House addressed many of our concerns with H.R. 2646 prior to passage. However, we continue to oppose H.R. 2646 because it is bad for people with disabilities. Our concerns include the following:
- It creates a new Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use to change SAMHSA. The law gives a preference for doctors over others to administer the mental health and substance use support programs.
- It creates an unnecessary grievance procedure for Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) programs.
- It creates a number of advisory councils that do not recognize the importance of consumer input.
- It promotes institutionalization of children through an expanded Medicaid benefit.
- It limits mobility for elders and people with disabilities who use personal care services and home health care services under Medicaid through a new Electronic Visit Verification system requirement for states.
- It requires new Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rules and influences the rules to lessen privacy for people with psychiatric disability through an unscientific “Sense of Congress.
- “It increases and extends funding for the involuntary outpatient commitment program for individuals with psychiatric disability.
- It directs funding to training when more money for services is needed.
We understand that a number of Senators have been trying to get amendments to S. 2680 regarding a number of topics, including amendments that would make the Senate bill more like H.R. 2646. Please contact your Senators. Ask them to support S. 2680, as passed by the HELP Committee with no amendments.