New legislation could revamp ailing mental health system

The bipartisan bill also includes a provision to make psychologists eligible for electronic health record incentive payments.

More than 11 million Americans live with a serious mental illness. Yet millions go without needed treatment and care. On June 4, Representatives Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, introduced H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015, which seeks to reform the mental health service system by focusing on programs and resources for patients and families most in need of mental health and support services.

In a joint support letter to the sponsors of the bill (PDF, 80KB), APA and the APA Practice Organization (APAPO) applauded the legislation’s major structural improvements to the nation’s mental health system that would help individuals with serious mental illness and their families.

Notable provisions of the legislation include:

  • Increased emphasis on evidence-based mental health services.
  • Expanded authority for mental health services financed by Medicaid.
  • Elimination of the 190-day lifetime limit in Medicare for psychiatric hospital services.
  • Reauthorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, as well as authorization of the Minority Fellowship Program and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline program.
  • Support for research at the National Institute of Mental Health addressing the risk factors for, and prevention of, suicide and violence among those with mental illness.
  • Full compliance and enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

APAPO continues to seek psychologists’ eligibility for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments to adopt electronic health records and is pleased that HR 2642 includes a provision to this effect.

“This bill includes many notable provisions that will improve access to effective care, particularly for individuals with the most serious mental disorders,” says APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD. “We look forward to working with Rep. Murphy and his staff and colleagues to further improve and advance the bill through the legislative process.”

A prior version of the bill was introduced in the previous Congress (H.R. 3717) but did not advance through the legislative process. APAPO suggested some refinements to provisions of the previous bill, many of which were included in the 2015 version. The 2015 version of the bill currently has 30 bipartisan cosponsors. APAPO will keep members apprised of any updates through the PracticeUpdate e-newsletter.