The National Council for Mental Wellbeing applauds Congress for this month’s passage of the addiction and mental health provisions included in the 21st Century Cures (H.R. 34). We thank Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) for their leadership on the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act and Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) for spearheading the Senate’s Mental Health Reform Act. Additionally, we thank Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) for their efforts to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness in jail and prison through the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act. Finally, we thank President Obama for his leadership and swift signing of the package.
In particular, the National Council is grateful for the bill’s provisions related to the ongoing opioid crisis, authorizing $1 billion in grants to states over the next two years. The bill’s mental health provisions reauthorize a number of existing federal grant programs focused on suicide prevention, workforce education and training, jail diversion, mental health awareness training, and more. The bill also includes important policy clarifications and technical assistance resources. It expands access to integrated care by clarifying that states can bill Medicaid for mental and physical health services provided on the same day. Finally, it helps states better identify and appropriately respond to a person with a mental health condition who may otherwise become involved with the criminal justice system.
The National Council asks Congress to act quickly and include full funding for these provisions in the FY2017 appropriations package. We were disappointed that expansion of the Excellence in Mental Health Act was not included in the final bill; this important initiative will support community mental health and addiction providers in expanding access to serve more individuals. Nonetheless, this legislation is a step in the right direction; we look forward to continuing the conversation with the next Congress and Administration on additional mental health reform that will build on these provisions.