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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Mental Health Civil Rights Subcommittee Continues to Fight the Murphy Bill and Other Attacks on Civil Rights

NCIL’s Mental Health Civil Rights Subcommittee continues our work to vigorously oppose dangerous federal legislation related to mental health. Over the past few months, NCIL has submitted letters to members of Congress, sent Action Alerts, and published WAM updates similar to this one.

Force Is Not Recovery 2012 protest signOn June 4, 2015, Representative Murphy introduced H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. In August, a separate mental health bill (the Mental Health Reform Act – S. 1945) was introduced in the Senate. Provisions in the current House and Senate bills threaten the structure of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), threaten privacy rights, weaken the ability of the Protection and Advocacy System (P&As) to do their vital work defending civil and human rights, and increase the use of forced treatment in the community through supporting assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), among other concerns. NCIL Mental Health Subcommittee Co-Chair Mike Bachhuber was quoted in a USA Today article raising concerns about the actual effect the above-mentioned House bill could have on the privacy rights of people labeled with psychiatric disabilities.

As outlined in the past several editions of NCIL’s Legislative & Advocacy Priorities, NCIL supports reforms of SAMHSA that would increase consumer involvement in mental health policy, which neither bill would accomplish.

And, in the aftermath of yet more tragic mass-shootings, legislation restricting the right to own firearms solely based on a diagnosis of a mental health or intellectual disability (not on prior conviction of a violent crime) has been introduced in some states, including recently in Illinois. This bill, and other bills similar to it, set dangerous precedence that having a disability automatically deprives someone of a constitutional right – something that the disability community must strongly fight against.

As we’ve written previously, NCIL opposes any legislation or administrative action that continues or strengthens denial of rights based solely on a diagnosis or disability and any deprivation of liberty based on disability rather than criminal activity.

NCIL’s Mental Health Civil Rights Subcommittee meets monthly via teleconference and also maintains an active page on Facebook. Please contact us through NCIL’s website or via Facebook if you are interested in helping with our work.

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