Call to Action
- August 16, 2016 | The Murphy Bills
Call Members of the United States Senate
BEFORE LABOR DAY
to Support Senate Bill 2680 Without Amendments from HR 2646
The Senate is being pressured to take up their mental health bill, S. 2680, sponsored by Chris Murphy and Lamar Alexander, when they return from recess in September. It is unclear whether they will consider the bill or not. It is possible they will pass mental health reform to the next Congress. However, we cannot assume they will “kick the can down the road.” We must act.
There is a significant danger that the bill will have amendments attached to it, or be changed when the conference process with the House takes place. We have every indication that members of the House, as well as House committee staff, have convinced members of the Senate that HR 2646, the original Murphy Bill, has been overhauled and is now acceptable to all stakeholders. This is far from true. We must prevent any language from HR 2646 from bleeding into the Senate bill.
Please use this opportunity to meet with your senators or staffers while they are in their home offices. Tell them to support S. 2680 as passed by the HELP Committee, without changes from HR 2646.
If meetings are not possible, please write your senators – email or regular mail, and follow up with a phone call to discuss any questions they may have (which is basically a prompt to read your communication).
For additional info:
Mad In America article by NCMHR Executive Director Valerie L. Marsh
Coalition for Mental Health Reform
The Coalition for Mental Health Reform is made up of disability, civil, and human rights organizations working with people with psychiatric disabilities for the improvement of legislative outcomes for mental health reform.
Click to view August 4, 2016 Statement - Concerns with the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015 passed in the House of Representatives July 6, 2016
The following is an overview of the combined talking points. Depending on time availability, and your own confidence in education your elected representative, I suggest you choose the top 4-5 points that matter to you. Please refer to the above documents for more details:
- Nothing about us without us. HR 2646 excludes the voice of people who have lived experience with mental health issues in decisions that dramatically affect our lives.
- The bill expands grant funding and the timeframes for Assisted Outpatient Treatment. There is no evidence that AOT is more effective than voluntary care.
- HR 2646 significantly weakens the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
- HR 2646 uses “anosognosia” [pronunciation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVo2QZ29q_c] as a rationale to relax confidentiality issues and promote forced treatment. There is no scientific basis for anosognosia in mental health.
- The bill is hostile to programs and concepts of recovery.
- Increased services in the community are needed; they cannot be replaced by hospitals.
Additional problems with HR 2646, from the viewpoint of other advocacy groups:
- The bill creates an additional grievance procedure within the PAIMI Act. There is no evidence has been provided that this already existing system is not working, and therefore there is no need for an additional process.
- HR 2646 removes an incentive for states to develop community-based services and avoid overreliance on long-term institutionalization.
- The Bill creates an Electronic Verification Visit (EVV) requirement for home health workers that would be harmful to individuals with disabilities, ineffective at addressing fraud and has the potential to increase state liability.
- HR 2646 provides $10,000,000 over a 5-year period for paraprofessional training and education programs. Given the crisis in community care, the funds should be re-directed to all states to expand a broad array of peer support services.
Concluding point: The Community Mental Health Act was passed by the 88th Congress in 1963. Instead of investing in community care, states closed beds and re-allocated the funding elsewhere. Deinstitutionalization is a fiscal failure, not an issue of "undeserved rights," that represents a discriminatory bias against people with mental health conditions. It is this fiscal failure, driven by fear and discrimination, that has placed people on the streets and in the correctional system. Additional funding for inpatient care does nothing to prevent the need for it. It only perpetuates ugly crises that wind up in the media with this flawed and discriminatory use of public dollars.
53 years after passage of the CMHA, we are still waiting for true deinstitutional-ization. How much longer must we wait?
The following links provide contact information for all members of Congress. Additionally, there are links to the members of the HELP Committee and Senate Finance. The members of these two committees are especially important to contact. Their support or non-support will likely decide the fate of MH reform for this Congress. Please start by contacting their home offices.
If you are willing, your member in the House of Representatives also needs to be contacted regarding HR 2646. The bill was passed by a vote of 422-2; it was overwhelmingly supported on a bipartisan basis. Contact your House rep. to discuss why they supported the bill, and why you oppose it. We must go back and try to educate the House as much as we can.
All members of the House should be contacted using the first link above, and as with the Senate, the members of the committee that worked the bill, plus the Ways and Means Committee members, are most critical to reach.
Once you have made contact with your representative(s) in Congress, please send us a message via the contact form at www.ncmhr.org/contact.htm. We’ll be tracking it via a spreadsheet, and will share updates to see which states have advocates who have contacted their reps. HOW COOL WOULD IT BE TO SEE THAT SPREADSHEET GROW!!! We’ve already got NC, RI and OR, at a minimum… Be prepared to provide the following:
- Member of Congress Contacted – Last name, first name
- Staff persons contacted – last name, first name
- Your name
- Brief description of the outcome of your communication with them.
Questions? Of COURSE! Send them on! Happy to help people feel more comfortable with this complicated stuff. Val Marsh will visit those members of Congress FIRST with constituents at home who cared enough to talk to them.