Monday, May 12, 2014

real solutions to fix America’s broken mental health system

For the first time in 50 years,
real solutions have been proposed to fix
America’s broken mental health system…

HR 3717

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

Congressman Tim Murphy, PhD, a psychologist by training, has introduced comprehensive legislation to help individuals and families living with severe mental illness.
This bill, HR 3717, called the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, is designed to reduce the barriers to treatment for those who need it most.

HR 3717 WILL:

  • EMPOWER parents and caregivers
  • ADDRESS the shortage of psychiatric beds
  • STABILIZE patients beyond the emergency room
  • PROMOTE alternatives to institutionalization
  • ENCOURAGE greater use of criminal diversion programs
  • REACH underserved and rural populations
  • FOSTER evidence-based care
  • ADVANCE critical medical research
  • IMPROVE the quality of community behavioral health services
  • REDUCE mental illness stigma in schools
  • INTEGRATE primary and behavioral care
  • INCREASE physician volunteerism in community mental health facilities
  • REFORM the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


  • Requires states to authorize assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) in order to receive Community Mental Health Service Block Grant funds.
  • Clarifies HIPAA to permit a “caregiver” to receive protected health information when a mental health care provider reasonably believes disclosure to the caregiver is necessary to protect the health, safety or welfare of the patient or the safety of another. (The definition of “caregiver” includes immediate family members.)
  • Establishes a new National Mental Health Policy Laboratory in the Department of Health and Human Services
  • Prevents federally funded Protection and Advocacy organizations from engaging in lobbying activities and counseling individuals on “refusing medical treatment or acting against wishes of a caregiver.”
  • Requires the U.S. comptroller general to submit a report to Congress detailing the costs to the federal and state government of imprisoning people with severe mental illness.
  • Increases congressional oversight of SAMHSA programs and seeks improvements to the programs it supports.


Congressman Murphy’s legislation is not simply Democratic or Republican. The bill addresses a humane issue that affects people eveywhere.


Say YES to
Expanding Treatment Options for those with Severe Mental Illness
Say YES to HR 3717


Dear Congressman [insert last name]
My name is ________________________________ and I live in ______________________.
Please support HR 3717 because it addresses the obstacles families face when trying to save loved ones from untreated serious mental illness. This bill will expand access to treatment for individuals who miss out on mental health services because they are too ill to seek them. It will lead to treatment before tragedy.
We desperately need HR 3717 to help us appropriately care for our loved ones, who while in crisis, cannot care for themselves. It truly is a matter of life and death.
Thank you for your support!
To find your representative:


 What is assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) and how does HR 3717 promote it? 
AOT is court-ordered outpatient treatment (including medication) for individuals who have a history of struggling to stay in treatment. It is mandated as a condition for them to remain in the community rather than be hospitalized.
AOT laws are intended to help those individuals with severe mental illness who are most at risk for revolving-door hospitalization, incarceration, homelessness and other consequences of not receiving needed treatment.
The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act requires the five states that don’t have laws authorizing the practice of AOT to pass them in order to remain eligible for certain federal block grant monies.
A grant program to help counties implement AOT programs was originally included in HR 3717 but was subsequently incorporated in the Protecting Access to Medicare Act. This act has already passed, been signed by the president and is now public law.
Does assisted outpatient treatment work? 
The US Department of Justice has deemed AOT to be an evidence-based practice for reducing crime and violence. Multiple studies have found that AOT reduces incarceration, homelessness and hospitalization and helps people regain dignity and control of their lives. Independent research also has found that AOT can save sufficient taxpayer money to expand other mental health services with the savings. The majority of patients who have utilized AOT say it helped them; many credit AOT with saving their lives.
What is a need-for-treatment standard and what does HR 3717 say about it?
A “need-for-treatment” commitment standard authorizes court-ordered treatment for individuals who are deteriorating psychiatrically but have not yet reached a point where they are unable to provide for their basic survival needs or are at risk of endangering themselves or others.
Need-for-treatment standards are particularly important for individuals who lack insight into their illness because they focus the court’s attention on needless personal suffering and/or deterioration, from which the person is incapable of escaping without assistance.
HR 3717 requires states to include need-for-treatment commitment standards in their civil commitment laws in order to remain eligible for certain federal block grant monies.
What are the changes to HIPAA and how will they affect patient privacy?
HR 3717 clarifies existing sections of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and codifies those sections in statute to assure that doctors and caregivers can communicate during a mental health crisis. Currently, providers frequently misinterpret or over-interpret the guidelines, which restricts participation by family members and impairs the ability to act in the best interests of patients in psychiatric crisis. This clarification enables “caregivers” to receive protected health information when a mental health care provider reasonably believes disclosure is necessary to protect the health, safety or welfare of the patient or the safety of another. The definition of “caregiver” includes immediate family members.
Will HR 3717 put people in the hospital who don’t belong there?
The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act strengthens the community system of care so people with the most severe illnesses receive treatment in the least restrictive settings. In fact, the legislation provides alternatives to involuntary hospitalization and imprisonment.
How will HR 3717 affect the trend of incarcerating people because of acts they commit while in psychiatric crisis?
HR 3717 promotes the use of jail diversion programs such as mental health courts and crisis intervention team (CIT) policing, which provides training in handling mental illness to law enforcement officers. These programs consistently have been proven to reduce incarceration rates in the population with untreated mental illness. Yet less than 40% of the US population currently lives in jurisdictions with mental health courts, and only 49% lives where CIT is in use.
How will the suggested funding cuts to Protection and Advocacy programs affect services for those with severe mental illness?
Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) was originally enacted by Congress to protect the rights of individuals with serious mental illness. Unfortunately, PAIMI programs utilize federal funding to create barriers to treatment through lobbying efforts and unauthorized activities, including counseling patients in crisis to refuse treatment against their physicians’ advice and caregivers’ wishes. Preventing treatment was not the intent of PAIMI.
HR 3717 redirects these funds and actually restores the original intent of PAIMI by prohibiting any organization receiving PAIMI funds from engaging in any form of lobbying or actively fighting against caregiver and physician efforts.
Read Joe Bruce's tragic story with deadly consequences when a federally funded patient rights advocate convinced a severely psychotic young man to refuse treatment and leave the hospital.

HR 3717 Bill Information


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