APA Praises Senate Approval of Mental Health Reform Bill

ARLINGTON, Va. Dec. 7, 2016 – The American Psychiatric Association (APA) applauds the U.S. Senate for passing the 21st Century Cures Act, far-reaching legislation with numerous provisions intended to reform and improve the nation’s mental health care system. The legislation was approved by the House on Nov. 30 and now heads to President Obama for his anticipated signature.

“This long-awaited and much needed mental health reform will help to increase access to care and improve the quality of care for people with mental health and substance use disorders, especially for the 13 million Americans living with serious mental illness,” said APA President Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D. “The bill will toughen enforcement of existing parity laws, helping to ensure that mental health care services are covered just like other health care services.”

The 21st Century Cures bill includes provisions long championed by Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) in the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act as well as provisions in the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, sponsored by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

The bill provisions include:

  • Reauthorizing grants to support integrated care models so that mental health professionals can work more closely with primary care doctors.
  • Reauthorizing grants for training programs, such as the APA Foundation’s Typical or Troubled? program, which trains school officials to identify students in need of mental health services.
  • Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan to ensure enforcement of federal parity laws that mandate that insurers cover mental illness the same as any other ailment.
  • Providing $1 billion in state grants to address the opioid epidemic.

“This law takes us a huge step forward in improving our mental health care system and in improving the lives of the tens of millions of Americans living with mental illness and substance use disorders,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to help ensure resources are available for full implementation.”

The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose 36,500 physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders.

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