Monday, April 14, 2014

Why we need to overhaul the mental illness system

By LEISL STOUFER contributing columnist
Published: April 11, 2014 Updated: 5:28 p.m.
Imagine being diagnosed with cancer but being told you are not sick enough to qualify for treatment. Imagine having a serious medical emergency, but there are no hospital beds so you are turned away and denied care. Imagine having a debilitating disease, but instead of receiving treatment and being cared for, you are arrested, thrown in jail or forced to live on the streets.
These are the horrors and the realities that individuals and families who suffer from mental illness face every day. There is no other illness in America that is treated this way. We have abandoned an entire population of people. We deny them treatment, we walk over them in the streets, and we throw them in jail as we look away. For the first time in 50 years there is a real solution that will overhaul our nation’s failed mental health system.
Congressman Tim Murphy, R-Penn., has proposed the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act that would dramatically change our nation’s approach to mental illness.
From left, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and the committee's ranking member, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., listen as Army Chief of Staff Gen Raymond Odierno, lower left, and Army Secretary John M. McHugh, update the committee about the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood by a soldier who was being treated for mental illness.
In his bill H.R. 3717 Congressman Murphy, a clinical psychologist, lays out a comprehensive approach that would address critical gaps and barriers that keep the sickest patients from receiving treatment. These barriers include strict Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act laws that prohibit family members from sharing vital information about their mentally ill loved ones with physicians. Murphy’s bill frees parents and family members who are caregivers from HIPAA restraints so that they can enter into a healthy dialogue with doctors allowing for a more proactive treatment plan and better treatment outcomes.