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Murphy Cheers House OK Of Mental Health Reform Act, Calls For Senate Vote

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy Photo Credit: File

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), co-author of the Mental Health Reform Act, applauded the House approval Wednesday evening of a bipartisan bill that includes mental health reforms in a vote of 392-26.

The bill also includes emergency funding to address the opioid and heroin crisis, and increased investments in medical research. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.

Murphy was joined in hailing the bill's passage by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), his co-author of the bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act and co-member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

“I’d heard too many devastating stories of people struggling with serious mental illness and addiction whose lives were forever changed because they couldn’t get the care they need. I’d seen up close the heartbreak and frustration that families suffered trying to find care for a loved one – care that seemed impossible to find and even harder to pay for. That’s why I worked with Republicans and Democrats on the Mental Health Reform Act,” said Murphy.

“With today’s House passage of the bill, Congress is closer than ever to passing mental health reform and making a real difference in millions of people’s lives. I’ll be working hard to get the bill over the finish line in the Senate so President Obama can sign it into law before he leaves office.”

Cassidy agreed.

“After two years of fighting for mental health reform, we now have the opportunity to help the millions of Americans who have been denied access to care by our broken mental health system,” said Cassidy. "This legislation provides hope to the families of those affected by mental illness.”

After months of collaborating with mental health professionals, policy experts, consumers, and family members, Murphy and Cassidy introduced their bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 to expand federal resources and improve coordination for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

The Senators worked closely with U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) 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 today.

Highlights from the bill passed Wednesday include:

For mental health reforms:

  • Integrates Physical and Mental Health.
  • Strengthens Transparency and Enforcement of Mental Health Parity.
  • Establishes New Programs for Early Intervention and Improves Access to Mental Health Care for Children.
  • Strengthens Suicide Prevention.
  • Establishes New National Mental Health Policy Laboratory.
  • Reauthorizes Successful Grant Programs.
  • Strengthens Leadership and Accountability for Federal Mental Health and Substance Use Programs.
  • Develops New Educational Materials on Privacy Protections.

For opioid treatment and prevention:

  • The bill 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

Funding for NIH & the Cancer Moonshot:

  • The bill provides over $4.8 billion over 10 years to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, cancer research, and regenerative medicine using adult stem cells.
  • The bill provides $500 million to the Food and Drug Administration over 10 years to implement provisions in Title III to move drugs and medical devices to patients more quickly, while maintaining the same standard for safety and effectiveness.

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