Both the APA Practice Organization and APA continue to press for congressional action on comprehensive mental health system reform. 

An Oct. 27 coalition letter from the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG) (PDF, 59KB) urged the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) – the Senate committee with jurisdiction over health and mental health issues – to take up the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S. 1945) introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R–La., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn. APA participates in the MHLG along with several other national organizations representing mental health consumers, family members, health care professionals, providers and advocates.

Earlier this year, the APA Practice Organization (APAPO) and APA sent a joint letter applauding the senators for their bipartisan leadership in introducing S. 1945, and praising the legislation’s goals.

Among its aims, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 seeks to: 

  • Expand patient access to inpatient psychiatric services.
  • Foster integration of physical and mental health services delivery. 
  • Promote appropriate, effective sharing of individuals' mental health treatment information. 
  • Establish new grant programs for early intervention.
  • Support preventive services.
  • Bolster enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. 

“It is urgent that Congress enact legislation like S. 1945 soon, in order to provide more effective prevention and treatment measures, more timely access, and improve the continuity of care within our mental health system,” says the MHLG letter.

S. 1945 would build on the HELP Committee’s work in approving the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2015 (S. 1893). APAPO also supported this legislation introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The MHLG sent its letter the same week as the first mental health care reform hearing of the current Congress. The Oct. 29 hearing "Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders in America: Priorities, Challenges, and Opportunities,” addressed how to improve mental health research, diagnosis and treatment in the U.S. Featured panelists included: Kana Enomoto, acting administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health; and Jim Macrae, acting administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

In early June, psychologist and Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, introduced in the House of Representatives a mental health system reform bill, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015 (H.R. 2646). APA and the Practice Organization sent a joint letter of support to the bill sponsors. 

While not identical to S. 1945, the House bill is considered companion legislation. The House bill was reviewed and approved by the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health on Nov. 4. The bill now awaits consideration from the full Energy & Commerce Committee.

APAPO will keep members apprised through this PracticeUpdate e-newsletter of progress related to mental health system reform legislation.