Monday, December 12, 2016

Congress finally passed legislation to overhaul the broken mental health system!

(Dec. 7, 2016, by Treatment Advocacy Center)

Long overdue and years in the making, an overwhelming bi-partisan majority of Congress finally passed monumental legislation, known as the 21st Century Cures Act which includes the much needed "Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act" ... to overhaul the country’s fractured mental health system.

The legislation will address several significant areas of mental health treatment that have long eluded advocates and families struggling with mental illness and substance use disorders, such as increasing the number of psychiatric beds nationwide, elevating the topic of mental health by creating a federal position of assistant secretary for mental health and substance use disorders — that will require its chief have a clinical background — and requiring private insurers cover mental health care on an equal footing with physical health.

The Act will also fundamentally change the foundation for how the federal government prioritizes severe mental illness by:

Reforming SAMHSA:

* Creates a new Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders to be presidentially appointed with Senate confirmation, who will oversee SAMHSA and coordinate related programs and research across the federal government, with emphasis on science and evidence based programs, and with the aid of a newly established Chief Medical Officer.

* Establishes a new federal policy laboratory for mental health and substance use, to elevate and disseminate policy changes and service models that work based on evidence, research, and science. 

* Funding and Strengthening Evidence Based Treatment Programs for SMI:

* Strengthens and expand critical Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) programs to help break the revolving-door cycle through a grant reauthorization and funding increase for states to implement AOT, and permit states to use grant funding for AOT in civil courts as an alternative to incarceration.

* Establishes, hand in hand with AOT, a grant program for Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams to provide critical wrap around services in the community to people with SMI. 

* Provides states with new innovative opportunities to deliver much-needed care in IMDs to adult Medicaid patients with SMI.

* Strengthens community response systems with a grant program to create databases on psychiatric beds, crisis stabilization units, and residential treatment facilities.

* Directs CMS to outline for states innovative opportunities to use Medicaid 1115 waivers to provide care for adults with serious mental illness
Decriminalizing mental illness

* Allows DOJ funding to be used for civil AOT programs to provide treatment opportunities before incarceration.

* Allows DOJ funding to be used for Forensic Assertive Community Treatment Programs (FACT) for individuals with severe psychiatric disorders in the criminal justice system.

*  Creates federal mental health courts, and provides avenues for better screening and assessment of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.

*  Provides law enforcement and the court system with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training and programs to divert people with SMI from the criminal justice system.

Mandating data collection on the role of SMI in public issues

*  Requires federal databases on psychiatric beds, crisis stabilization units, and residential treatment facilities.

*  Requires government reporting on federal, state, and local costs of imprisonment for individuals with serious mental illness, including the number and types of crimes committed by mentally ill individuals

*  Requires Attorney General data collection and dissemination regarding the involvement of mental illness in all homicides, as well as deaths or serious bodily injuries involving law enforcement officers

 Clarifying the HIPAA quagmire and train health care providers so providers and families understand the circumstances under which they can share and provide protected information about a loved one with SMI.

 Establishing a federal adult suicide prevention program.

The Treatment Advocacy Center will continue to work with its partners and advocates to ensure that people with serious mental illness and their families get the best care and support they need to avoid repeated incarcerations, hospitalizations and putting an end to stigma.

John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, said, “It has been a long fight, and we are thrilled to see the Senate join their colleagues in the House today to pass reforms and send this bill to President Obama for his signature.”

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