NCD Recommendations for the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013

April 17, 2014

Honorable Joseph Pitts, Chairman
Subcommittee on Health
Energy & Commerce Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
420 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for including among the April 3, 2014 Subcommittee on Health’s hearing witnesses someone with the lived mental health experiences and recommendations regarding options for treatment, prevention, and support to people who need services before, during, and after crisis situations.

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I write to share recommendations related to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health’s work on H.R. 3117, Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013. NCD is an independent, nonpartisan federal agency comprised of 15 presidential appointees and a professional staff, charged with providing advice to Congress and the President on disability policy. NCD’s constituency includes people with disabilities of all ages and disabilities, including psychiatric disabilities (mental illnesses).

In an earlier letter to Congressman Tim Murphy and Congresswoman Diana DeGette of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Energy and Commerce Committee NCD expressed concern that a March 14, 2014 roundtable lacked representation of people with psychiatric disabilities.[1]  As stated in the letter, NCD’s recommendations focus on greater investment in community-based mental health supports and programs. This shifts the existing mental health system from an illness/maintenance model to a wellness/recovery model and emphasizes peer-support. 

NCD also takes this opportunity to issue a renewed statement against Congressman Murphy’s proposed legislation which risks (1) weakening the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)—See the bill at Title III-HIPAA and FERPA Caregivers, Sec. 301; (2) gutting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—See the bill at Title I, Sec. 101 Assistant Secretary, and (3) expanding forced treatment—See the bill at Title I, Sec. 103, Assisted outpatient treatment grant program. NCD is available to offer and discuss language that aims to protect the civil rights of all people with disabilities that were hard fought and are recognized through existing federal laws.

NCD’s publications[2] express our concerns about privacy and the lack of community-based mental health services. Data continues to show that a principal challenge to accessing mental health supports and services is the deep and abiding stigma that exists to acknowledging a need for and receiving mental health treatment.

Meaningful solutions will require thoughtful and scholarly examination of multiple policies and systems. NCD offers nearly thirty years of engaging knowledgeable stakeholders to advance recommendations about effective community-based early intervention health service options, supportive housing, and peer support. NCD stands ready to assist the Subcommittee on Health and full committee, as you examine effective ways to reform the mental health system in America. We appreciate your consideration of NCD’s resources and counsel.

Respectfully,

Jeff Rosen
Chairperson


[1]Letter to House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight on Mental Health http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2013/031413/

[2] Mental Health Funding Letter - http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2013/12202013/; Letter After New Town Tragedy - http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Dec202012/; Inclusive Livable Communities for People with Psychiatric Disabilities - http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2008/03172008;  Letter on Over Sight and Investigations - http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2013/031413/

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