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Jacquelyn Sommer

Manager, Policy and Advocacy

Senators Host a Bipartisan Summit on Mental Health

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Last week, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) hosted a summit on mental health, aimed at drawing national attention and support for their bipartisan bill, the Mental Health Reform Act (S. 2680).  The event brought together mental health advocates and field experts to discuss challenges and opportunities in the behavioral health care delivery system.  Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) were also in attendance and both voiced support for the legislation.  Senator Alexander noted, “out of all the major pieces of legislation that remain to be worked on, this has as good as a chance as any” for passage.

Over three different panel discussions and a keynote address, experts from the criminal justice system, economists, psychiatrists, and several people with lived experience spoke about the need for comprehensive change which should involve diverse stakeholders, including many of the industries represented by the panelists.  Senator Murphy addressed the complexity of top down reform, noting that in addition to the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and & Pensions) Committee, the Judiciary Committee also has jurisdiction over many of the legislative initiatives in the Senate; this means comprehensive reform will require a multifaceted approach.  Senator Cassidy acknowledged the limitations facing a complete overhaul of the system, but remarked that the Mental Health Reform Act, “is not the end, it’s a great next step.”

Senator Murphy and Cassidy’s mental health bill is among the issues that will be discussed at the National Council’s Hill Day, to be held June 6-7 in Washington DC. Be a part of the conversation and action by joining us on site, participating via Twitter by using the hashtag #HillDay16, or taking part in our Virtual Lobby Day!