The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which contains provisions to improve the nation’s approach to mental health care treatment. The bill, H.R. 2646, which was introduced by Reps. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, was reported out of committee on a unanimous vote.

“This legislation provides for comprehensive reform and improvements of our nation’s fragmented health care system,” said Susan H. McDaniel, PhD, president of the American Psychological Association (APA). “From lobbying on the Hill for this bill, I know that this legislation is long overdue and will bring much-needed help and assistance to children and adults with mental disorders, their families and the mental and behavioral health professionals who provide their care.”

The bill would:

  • Clarify privacy protections under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.
  • Establish model training programs and provide materials for psychologists and other health care professionals, and for families of individuals with mental disorders.
  • Increase the psychologist workforce by supporting the education and clinical training of health service psychology students, interns and postdoctoral residents.
  • Authorize the Minority Fellowship Program, which funds provider training and development across mental health disciplines to meet the treatment needs of the country’s increasingly ethnically and culturally diverse population.
  • Strengthen enforcement of key health insurance protections established under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
  • Allow same-day billing of mental health and physical health services under Medicaid.

10 million Americans affected

“Mental disorders affect more than 40 million Americans each year — including roughly 10 million Americans with serious mental illness. These disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S.,” McDaniel said. “Sadly, there are major gaps in the U.S. health system when it comes to identifying and treating mental disorders, which is why we are calling on both chambers of Congress to pass legislation this year.”