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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

House Approves Mental Health Bill, Eyes Now Turn Towards Senate

July 7, 2016 | Medicaid | Parity | Privacy & HIPAA | Comments
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On Wednesday, the House voted overwhelmingly to pass bipartisan legislation aimed at improving the nation’s mental health system. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) – first introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy in 2013 – passed by a 422-2 vote and now awaits action from the Senate before heading to the White House.  On the Senate side, a companion measure was approved earlier this year but has yet to receive consideration on the floor. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) says he is hopeful the Senate will take up that measure in September.

The wide-ranging, House-passed measure was originally drafted as a comprehensive reform of the mental health care system. But after partisan disagreements over many controversial and costly provisions, a revised version of the bill was introduced and unanimously passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee, leading to yesterday’s vote. The final version of the bill contains many important provisions, including: codification of Medicaid coverage for inpatient mental health care, HIPAA education programs, reports and transparency on parity, additional grant programs and more.

“This vote marks an important milestone in the multi-year, multi-Congress effort to deliver meaningful reforms to the nation’s mental health system. For way too long, mental health was a subject left for the shadows. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case,” said Chairman Fred Upton Upton (R-MI). “This bipartisan bill will truly make a real difference and deliver meaningful reforms to families in mental health crisis all across America.”

“This historic vote closes a tragic chapter in our nation’s treatment of serious mental illness and welcomes a new dawn of help and hope,” said Congressman Murphy (R-PA). “Today the House voted to deliver treatment before tragedy.”

For more specifics on H.R. 2646, read our coverage here.