Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) hope a gathering of mental health professionals this week will remind their fellow legislators that time is running out to reform the country's mental health system.
“Congress must make fixing the broken mental healthcare system a priority before we break for the summer,” the senators said in a news release, adding that with the bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act ready for a floor vote in the Senate, “We're closer to taking meaningful action than we've been in decades. We cannot let up.”
When they passed the mental health bill in March, members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee emphasized that both sides of the aisle agreed that reform is needed, but Republicans have rejected Democratic efforts to attach funding to the bill.
The bill would create state grants that support evidence-based treatments and add a new assistant secretary position at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Mental health advocates have been pushing for reform since the start of this session. Congress breaks in mid-July. After that, the presidential campaign will likely dampen any chance of passing anything comprehensive.
Reform measures have also been stymied by gun ownership amendments. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wants states to share more mental health records with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Democrats have said Cornyn's bill would actually make it easier for people with severe mental illness to acquire guns.