In an effort to provide greater access to mental health services and limit tragic incidents like the Sandy Hook shooting, two senators have come together to propose a bill to reform mental health care.
Senator Murphy (D-Conn.) and Senator Cassidy (R-La.) are all too familiar with tragedy in their jurisdictions.
Back in 2012, Senator Murphy – then a representative – watched as the Sandy Hook tragedy claimed lives of 28 people, including the shooter who struggled with mental health issues. The incident not only shook the town of Newtown, Connecticut, but it also thwarted the issues of gun control and mental health care access into the mainstream. Similarly, in July of 2015, a Louisiana shooter killed two women and injured others during a screening of Amy Schumer’s latest film Trainwreck. Schumer has since advocated for greater access to mental health care and the implementation of greater gun control measures.
Recognizing the need for greater oversight and increased access to mental health services, Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) have teamed up for a special bipartisan bill that will help provide services to as many as 44 million Americans each year who deal with mental health issues.
Among the proposed items in the bill are changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which was implemented in 1996 as a measure to manage patient privacy and product national standards for the exchange of information. While the standards greatly help patient’s protected health information, at times it can leave family members and others in the dark about their loved one’s treatment and mental health status. The bill proposed by Senators Murphy (D-Conn.) and Cassidy (R-La) aims to provide greater access to family members who want to better support their loved ones.
The bill also introduces some changes to the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program standards, which enable community mental health providers to reach people who may be experiencing mental health crisis but remain reluctant to engage in services. AOT services, at times, can be controversial due to standards which allow for the involuntary commitment of patients who present as potentially harmful.
To date, the mental health reform bill has been backed by several big mental health groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Psychological Association.
It remains to be seen what impact the mental health reform bill will have on mental health care in the United States. It is expected that the proposed bill will hit the Senate floor in the upcoming fall season for further debate. To learn more about the specifics of the proposed bill you can read a summary of the bill’s objectives here, via the American Psychiatric Association.
Together, we can change the way mental health care is delivered in America, and the world.
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