Vern Buchanan Takes Sides in Mental Health Bill Fight
Around the State
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., announced Thursday he is backing a major reform to federal treatment of mental illness.
Buchanan, the only member of the Florida delegation on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he was backing U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s, R-Pa., “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” which would ensure the federal government follows best practices as it allocates funds, currently around $125 billion, to help those with mental illness. The bill would ensure the federal Department of Health and Human Services collect evidence to prove its funds are being used effectively, increase outpatient treatment options, add more psychiatric beds and focus on rural outreach by embracing technological changes.
“Mental illness does not discriminate,” Buchanan said. “This is a disease that affects all segments of society and yet so many continue to fall through the cracks. We must do everything in our power to strengthen our mental health system so our loved ones receive the proper care and treatment they need.”
Buchanan stressed that Murphy’s proposal would only re-allocate current dollars instead of expanding costs.
Democrats in the House, led by U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., have their own legislation which they’ve dubbed the “Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act of 2014.” This proposal would launch a White House Office for Mental Health Policy, improve mental health services under Medicaid and Medicare, fund community and school mental health grants and increase funds to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) programs
“We must do more to improve access to community-based services for individuals with mental illness,” said Barber when he unveiled his bill last week. “This is not a partisan issue. I am proud to introduce this legislation that will strengthen our mental health system – asking more from existing programs and better outcomes for individuals and families impacted by mental illness.”
Murphy’s team insists their bill, which has been backed by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Sheriffs Association, will do more than Barber’s.
“The Barber-Pelosi bill suffers from a serious case of denial,” said Susan Mosychuk, Murphy’s chief of staff. “It denies inpatient and outpatient treatment options to those who are experiencing an acute mental health crisis. It denies families the opportunity to be part of the care team and help their loved ones with serious mental illness. And it denies the reality that the lead federal agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has failed in its mission. It’s almost as if the Barber bill wants to deny that people with severe and persistent mental illness exist. Denial doesn't work for substance abuse, and denial won't work for the families whose loved ones are in a mental health crisis.
“The Democrat bill will do nothing to prevent the next Jared Loughner, James Holmes, or Adam Lanza because it does nothing to help those with serious mental illness and continues funding the SAMHSA constituency of legal advocates and anti-psychiatry activists who use taxpayer dollars to force patients out of treatment,” Mosychuk added. “Chairman Murphy went to great lengths to work with members to fix our broken mental health system, but rather than work on a bipartisan effort, Ron Barber teamed up with Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman to simply maintain the status quo. Dr. Murphy is advancing real medical solutions; the Democrats are offering a placebo.”
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