Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Votes for Bipartisan Mental Health Reform Measure

July 6, 2016
Press Release

Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the statement below after voting in favor of H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. The bill passed the House by a vote of 422-2.
“Millions of people in the U.S., including more than 32,000 adults and 12,000 children in Hawaiʻi*, are living with serious mental health conditions, yet less than half receive the services they need. To help bridge the gap that has long existed in mental health care, H.R. 2646 would better connect those dealing with mental illness to community-based services, promote early intervention and treatment, increase access to tele-medicine for underserved and rural communities, and remove access barriers to Medicaid and Medicare for adults and children who need treatment.  In addition, the legislation will help address a nationwide shortage of nearly 100,000 inpatient beds, encourage states to provide community-based alternatives to institutionalization, and increase funding for suicide prevention research and outreach programs. Mental illness affects every community in every state across the nation. This bipartisan legislation will help to ensure that those in need of mental health care have better access to the treatment and care they need.”

In 2013, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations launched a top-to-bottom review of the country’s mental health system. The investigation, which included public forums, hearings with expert witnesses and document and budget reviews, revealed the federal government’s approach to mental health is a chaotic patchwork of antiquated programs and ineffective policies spread across numerous agencies with little to no coordination. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, 112 federal programs intended to address mental illness aren’t connecting for effective service delivery and "interagency coordination for programs supporting individuals with serious mental illness is lacking."
*According to research by the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2010, an estimated 32,000 adults and 12,000 children in Hawaii are living with serious mental health conditions.

H.R.2646 includes key measures to:

  • Empower Parents and Caregivers: Breaks down barriers for families to work with doctors and mental health professionals and be meaningful partners in the front-line care delivery team.
  • Drive Evidence-Based Care: Creates an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders with mental health credentials within the Department of Health & Human Services to elevate the importance of mental health in the nation’s leading health agency, coordinate programs across different agencies, and promote effective evidence-based programs.
  • Further Refine Mental Health & Substance Abuse Parity: Requires the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders to make public all federal investigations into compliance with the parity law so families and consumers know what treatment they have rights to access.
  • Drive Innovation: Establishes a National Mental Health Policy Laboratory to drive innovative models of care, develop evidence-based and peer-review standards for grant programs. Dedicates funding for the Brain Initiative (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative).
  • Improve Transition from One Level of Care to Another: Requires psychiatric hospitals to establish clear and effective discharge planning to ensure a timely and smooth transition from the hospital to appropriate post-hospital care and services.
  • Reduce Shortage of Crisis Mental Health Beds: Provides additional psychiatric hospital beds for those experiencing an acute mental health crisis and in need of short term (less than 30 days) immediate inpatient care for patient stabilization.
  • Increase Services to Underserved and Rural Populations: Advances tele-psychiatry to link pediatricians and primary care doctors with psychiatrists and psychologists in areas where patients don’t have access to needed care.
  • Focus on Mental Health Workforce: Requires the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders to study and recommend a national strategy for increasing the number of psychiatrists, child and adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, and mental health peer-support specialists; Includes child and adolescent psychiatrists in the National Health Service Corps; Authorizes the Minority Fellowship Program.
  • Advance Early Intervention and Prevention Programs: Authorizes, for the first time in federal law, the Recovery After Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE), an evidence-based early intervention program; Reauthorizes the National Child Traumatic Stress Network; Launches a new early childhood grant program to provide intensive services for children with serious emotional disturbances in an educational setting.
  • Encourage Alternatives to Institutionalization: Incentivizes states to provide community-based alternatives to institutionalization for those with serious mental illness, such as Assisted Outpatient Treatment and other assertive-care community approaches.
  • Focus on Suicide Prevention: Reauthorizes the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Program, invests in research on self-directed violence and for the first time authorizes in statute the Suicide Prevention Hotline.
  • Advance Integration Between Primary and Behavioral Care: Extends health information technology for mental health providers to coordinate care with primary care doctors using electronic medical records.
  • Increase Program Coordination Across the Federal Government: Establishes Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee to organize, integrate, and coordinate the research, treatment, housing and services for individuals with substance use disorders and mental illness.
  • Improve Protection & Advocacy: Focuses on the rights of individuals with mental illness to be free from abuse & neglect.
  • Increase Physician Volunteerism: Ends the decades-old prohibition on physicians seeking to dedicate time volunteering at community mental health clinics and federally-qualified health centers.

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