Thursday, December 26, 2013


From the editors of the Wall Street Journal:


A Congressman produces a set of good ideas for a difficult problem.

A year has passed since the Newtown massacre, and Americans this month marked the somber moment. The most fitting tribute Congress could pay the 26 victims would be to return in January to take up Pennsylvania Representative Tim Murphy's thoughtful overhaul of federal mental-health policies.

Severe mental illness is the common link among the recent mass shootings, and for decades the political class has ignored the systemic dysfunction in a mental-health system that fails the sickest. Getting to the root of this problem is hard, which is why Congress defaults either to spending more money or brawling over gun control.

The Murphy bill also uses grant money to push states to modernize their mental-illness laws. Some 23 states still allow for involuntary commitment only if a mentally ill person is an imminent danger to himself or others. This standard is nearly impossible to meet, and even psychotics are often able to present a brief fa├žade of normality. Many are unaware they're even ill and won't voluntarily get help.
Community mental-health centers would only receive grants if their state's commitment laws include a "need for treatment" standard, which gives families and physicians greater ability to get help for the mentally ill. Grants would also flow only to centers in the 44 states that have assisted-outpatient treatment laws, in which courts can require the mentally ill, as a condition of remaining in a community, to receive treatment. New York's Kendra's Law has been a model for how these outpatient treatment laws can help the most vulnerable and save lives.
The bill includes other pressing reforms, like removing the federal bias against hospital psychiatric care. Medicaid currently won't reimburse for psychiatric care in any hospital that has more than 16 psychiatric beds. This restriction has led to the dismantling of psychiatric hospitals, releasing the mentally ill to commit crimes and receive subpar treatment in jails. Seventy years ago the U.S. had 600,000 inpatient psychiatric beds for a country half its current population. Today it has 40,000.

Read more on Rep. Murphy's home page here:

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