Attention on the Murphy Bill

Today, the New York Times posted an article by Norman Ornstein, titled “How to Help Save the Mentally Ill from Themselves,” about the Murphy Bill (HR 2646). Yesterday, on 60 Minutes speaker Paul Ryan spoke in favor of the Murphy Bill. From October 29 through November 12 the Murphy Bill made headlines in The Oklahoman, Grants Pass Oregon’s Daily Courier, The Fresno Bee, and The Huffington Post, among others. On November 5th, on CNN, Congressman Murphy said:

“It is absurd that when a parent is trying to find out why their son or daughter just committed suicide, or why they are having problems, and doctors cannot even engage in any compassionate communication to tell family members what happened. We have closed the doors so much under this perverted guise that somehow the best a person can ever be is what they are and that the family member cannot help. It’s gone too far. All we are asking for is the ability to have compassionate communication between a doctor and a known caregiver when that person with serious mental illness is in this downward spiral of decay. Can’t we find some way to bring the family into the care team?”

Is the bill perfect? Some think not. But the attention it has received, and many of its provisions, are viewed as a large step in the right direction. According to the New York Times article:

The bill is not perfect. But it does many things to improve the financing, treatment and delivery of services across the range of mental illnesses, and in particular it has provisions aimed directly at helping those like my son…

The bill, which will soon be taken up by the full Energy and Commerce Committee, has broad support — but not broad enough. A majority of the Democrats on the committee oppose the changes to Samhsa and vigorously oppose any move to assisted outpatient treatment. Their concerns are focused on civil liberties and are sincere but they come from failure to grasp the deeper traumas that can destroy lives.

NAMI has submitted a letter of support to Representatives Murphy and Johnson indicating its appreciation of their leadership and NAMI’s commitment to work with them to pass comprehensive mental health legislation. Following is an excerpt from the June 17, 2015 NAMI article, An Opportunity for Comprehensive Mental Health Reform, by Mary Giliberti:

HR 2646 has many positive aspects, including provisions to improve integration of mental healthcare and physical healthcare in Medicaid, spur early intervention in the treatment of psychosis, improve the use of health information technology in mental health care and provide resources for suicide prevention. HR 2646 also contains provisions designed to improve data collection and outcomes measurement and expand the availability of evidence-based services. It contains provisions to remove discriminatory barriers to acute inpatient treatment in Medicaid and Medicare and it advances enforcement of the mental health insurance parity law as well.

HR 2646 also addresses issues that have generated much discussion within NAMI and other organizations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and access to information for caregivers, the role of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Protection and Advocacy System and Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT).

We have carefully reviewed the bill and believe it takes a more thoughtful approach to these complex issues. However, we have heard from many of you and are very aware that there are strong, diverse opinions about these issues and some questions about the new provisions. For example, members and leaders have asked questions about the scope of the Protection and Advocacy systems’ jurisdiction under the new “abuse and neglect” standard and whether that includes advocacy for housing and recovery supports, which is an important question that we will seek to clarify as the bill moves forward.

Learn about the Murphy Bill and let your voice be heard.