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  • Washington Highlights

    House Committee Approves Mental Health Reform Legislation

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    The House Energy and Commerce Committee June 15 unanimously approved a bipartisan bill (H.R. 2646) that would revamp the mental health system.

    House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who introduced the legislation, praised the committee for passing the bill, noting “[H]ere and now this committee jointly proclaims that the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness must come out of the shadows.” Murphy added that “those suffering from mental illness need the attention of this Congress,” and urged the full House to quickly consider and approve the bill.

    Key provisions of the mental health bill include:

    • Appointing an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder;
    • Evaluating the programs carried out by entities receiving grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) related to mental illness or substance use disorder;
    • Requiring SAMHSA and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to conduct a study on the mental health workforce; and
    • Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to clarify situations when a health care provider or entity can disclose the health information of a patient with a mental illness.

    Prior to approving the final bill, the committee considered an amendment that would eliminate the ban on gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The amendment failed by a 23 to 29 vote.

    The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee April 26 approved its version of the mental health bill, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680), which focuses on increasing access to mental health programs and coordination between agencies and programs.