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H.R. 2646 (114th): Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016

Most Republicans argue that the main issue causing mass shootings is not guns but mental illness. H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, is the main bill in this Congress tackling the issue of mental health. Although it was introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA18) more than a year ago, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed it 53–0 on Wednesday with renewed urgency after Orlando. It seems very likely to pass the full House, with 197 cosponsors: 141 Republicans and 56 Democrats.

The bill’s main provisions include lessening restrictions on Medicaid reimbursements for psychiatric hospitals and mental health facilities by allowing Medicaid to pay for patients who stay at such facilities for up to 14 days, and authorizing new mental health grant programs including a Department of Health and Human Services program educating about mental health,

Politico noted, though, that “the most significant reforms have been gutted for the sake of bipartisan consensus,” such as new Medicaid funding for psychiatric hospitals and easing the ability of health care providers to share mental health information with families or caregivers. Democrats, though largely supportive of the measures in the bill, argue that it’s skirting around the real issue: gun control.

Last updated Jun 20, 2016. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jun 4, 2015.

Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015

This bill creates the position of Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders to take over the responsibilities of the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Mental health programs are extended and training regarding mental health is expanded.

SAMHSA must establish the National Mental Health Policy Laboratory and the Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee.

This bill amends the Public Health Service Act to require the National Institute of Mental Health to translate evidence-based interventions and the best available science into systems of care.

Certain mental health care professional volunteers are provided liability protection.

Pediatric mental health subspecialists are eligible for National Health Service Corps programs.

An underserved population of children or a site for training in child psychiatry can be designated as a health professional shortage area.

The protected health information of an individual with a serious mental illness may be disclosed to a caregiver under certain conditions.

This bill amends title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act (SSAct) to conditionally expand coverage of mental health services.

Part D (Voluntary Prescription Drug Benefit Program) of title XVIII (Medicare) of the SSAct is amended to require coverage of antidepressants and antipsychotics.

If it will not increase Medicare spending, Medicare's 190-day lifetime limit on inpatient psychiatric hospital services is eliminated.

Health information technology activities and incentives are expanded to include certain mental health and substance abuse professionals and facilities.

This bill restricts the lobbying and counseling activities of protection and advocacy systems for individuals with mental illness. These systems must focus on safeguarding the rights of individuals with mental illness to be free from abuse and neglect.