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Murphy Applauds Senate Approval Of Landmark Mental Health Reform Bill

A few weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., crosses his fingers during a Bridgeport meeting in hopes a sweeping mental healthcare bill he co-authored would be passed. The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday, 94-5.
A few weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., crosses his fingers during a Bridgeport meeting in hopes a sweeping mental healthcare bill he co-authored would be passed. The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday, 94-5. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), author of the bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act, applauded the Senate's approval Wednesday of landmark mental health reforms and new funding for the opioid crisis.

The bill passed 94-5, and is now heading to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill makes mental health reforms, adds $1 billion in emergency funding to address the opioid and heroin crisis, and increases investments in cancer treatment and medical research.

Murphy hosted 30 town halls and roundtables with Connecticut families, professionals and advocates to craft the mental health reforms.

“This is the most comprehensive reform of our nation's mental health laws in a generation, and I'm so thrilled that we drafted it and passed it with support from both Democrats and Republicans," Murhpy said in a statement.

"In Connecticut, I've met too many people struggling with mental illness who can't find the care they need, or can't get their insurance company to approve the care once they find it. This bill means millions of dollars in new treatment, and it creates a pathway to a better integrated, more coordinated system for people with serious mental illness."

After months of collaborating with mental health professionals, policy experts, consumers, and family members, Murphy worked with U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to introduce their bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 to expand federal resources and improve coordination for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

They worked with other senators to craft an updated bill, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, which passed the HELP Committee unanimously earlier this year. The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 served as the basis for the mental health language included in the bill passed Wednesday.

“Today’s passage of the 21st Century Cures Act puts America’s money where its mouth is when it comes to public health,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “Investment is key to saving lives, and this measure invests in critical initiatives that will make a real impact in the daily lives of people across Connecticut. It takes meaningful steps to combat the opioid epidemic currently plaguing our communities. It improves access to vital mental health services to ensure mental health care is readily available without stigma or additional hurdles. It spurs landmark action in the effort to address Lyme Disease, and increases support for groundbreaking medical research.”

Highlights from the bill passed Wednesday include mental health reforms to:

  • Integrate Physical and Mental Health
  • Strengthen Transparency and Enforcement of Mental Health Parity
  • Establish New Programs for Early Intervention and Improve Access to Mental Health Care for Children
  • Strengthen Suicide Prevention
  • Establish New National Mental Health Policy Laboratory
  • Reauthorize Successful Grant Programs
  • Strengthen Leadership and Accountability for Federal Mental Health and Substance Use Programs
  • Develop New Educational Materials on Privacy Protections
The bill also provides $1 billion over two years for grants targeting opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities, such as improving prescription drug monitoring programs, implementing prevention activities, training for health care providers, and expanding access to opioid treatment programs

And it provides $4.8 billion over 10 years to the National Institutes of Health for the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, cancer research, and regenerative medicine using adult stem cells.

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