A controversial mental health reform bill is slated for a House vote next week with other anti-terrorism legislation.
The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), will be considered by the entire House of Representatives after passing the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a 53-0 vote last month.
The bill would create a new assistant secretary position at HHS' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and seeks to improve access to mental health services with increased coordination between government agencies. If passed, it would also require psychiatric hospitals to create discharge plans and have additional short-term care beds available.
Murphy has called the bill a historic undertaking for the House, claiming it addresses serious mental health issues in greater depth than previous proposals.
“We must have treatment before tragedy and let people know that we will finally break down the stigma of mental illness not through slogans, but through real evidenced based treatment - where people know that if they get care, they can get better,” Murphy said in his opening statement to the energy and commerce committee June 14.
Murphy's bill has been a point of contention among Democrats, who claimed the Pennsylvania representative refused to consider their suggestions for the legislation.
A similar bill, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, passed a Senate committee in March, but it has languished as Republicans have refused to attach funding to the proposal.
The House is also preparing to vote on Sen. John Cornyn's (R-Texas) bill that would push states to make more mental health records available for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. But that bill has rankled Democrats, who claim it would make it easier for those with severe mental illness to obtain firearms.