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Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Congress Considers Lame Duck Action on Mental Health

November 23, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Rumors inside the Beltway suggest that Congress could vote on a mental health and health research and innovation package after Thanksgiving. While details have yet to emerge, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) – Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and author of the 21st Century Cures Act – told House Republicans at a meeting last week that negotiations on the legislative package are nearing completion.

Reports imply that some version of a mental health reform bill could be attached to the package. However, it remains unclear how House lawmakers plan to reconcile their version of the bill – which passed the House floor in July– with a similar Senate effort.

The final package could include a mix of provisions from both the House-passed bill and a similar Senate measure from Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Should any mental health bill move forward, the National Council strongly supports the inclusion of the Expand Excellence in Mental Health Act, introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO). It remains to be seen what provisions from each bill make it into any final package—as well as whether there is enough political support to move a mental health package forward during the lame duck session.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue over whether and how to provide funding to address the opioid epidemic in any lame duck legislative package. Congress has repeatedly demonstrated bipartisan support for opioid treatment services and supports with the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and an initial appropriation of $7 million for CARA. According to recent reports, opioid addictions funding continues to a part of negotiations.

The National Council continues to work closely with congressional leaders and our legislative champions to move these initiatives forward. Should an opportunity arise, we will notify advocates to take action on securing votes and passage for these initiatives.