03.16.16

Murray: HELP Markup Lays “Strong, Bipartisan Foundation” for Addressing Mental Illness & Opioid Crisis

The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 would improve treatment for those struggling with mental illness and addiction

 

Murray: “As this agreement moves forward—we need to recognize, again, that our work isn’t over.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at a HELP Committee markup to consider the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, a bill that would help expand access to quality, effective mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and to consider other bipartisan legislation to address the opioid epidemic. In her remarks, Senator Murray applauded the Committee’s bipartisan efforts and called on her colleagues to build on the foundation established in this agreement to continue making progress for patients and families.

“The policies laid out today are strong steps in the right direction, toward solving the many problems that patients and families face when they seek care for mental illness and substance use disorder,” said Senator Murray. “The Mental Health Reform Act would help expand access to quality care, and make sure that patients receive coordinated mental and physical health care. Moving forward, we must build on the bipartisan foundation laid out in this agreement, and continue making progress to improve treatment for mental health, and substance use disorders across our country.”  

 

For more information on the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, click here. Statements of support from leading mental health and substance use disorder advocacy organizations can be found here.

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“We’ve been able to come together around some policies that I believe will make an enormous difference for families and communities across our country on two urgent challenges: fixing our broken mental health care system, and tackling the opioid epidemic. We’ve all heard from too many families about the struggle to find quality, effective mental health care for a loved one in need. And we’ve heard too many times about mothers and fathers who fought—often for years—to help a child break an addiction to opioids.”

 

“In my home state, I’ve heard from people like Jenny from Olympia, whose husband tragically committed suicide after he began to have psychotic episodes. He was cycled in and out of the hospital without effective treatment, and took his own life while Jenny was in the NICU with their newborn baby. And just this past week, Teresa from Kitsap County told me the story of her son Joey, who began using Percocet as he was headed to college. Joey is now 20 months into recovery—but only after years of struggling to find him effective care. Jenny and Teresa’s stories are very different, but they have one critical thing in common: our health care system let them down. So I’m very hopeful that the agreements we’ve reached today will begin to solve some of the problems that Jenny, Teresa, and so many others have struggled to overcome.”

 

“I’m glad that we’ve established a strong, bipartisan foundation for work to improve care for mental illnesses and substance use disorders in our country. And I believe many of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, would agree that we should keep building on it. I know that’s what Jenny, Teresa, and so many other families expect. They want us to keep working together to make even more progress—and I hope that’s what we’ll do.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander.

 

“I want to start by expressing my appreciation to the Chairman and to all of our colleagues here today, as well as their staffs, for the hard work leading up to today’s markup.

 

“In particular, I want to thank Senators Murphy and Cassidy for their leadership and commitment to reforming our mental health care system, as well as the many members here who worked so hard on the opioid legislation that we are considering.

 

“We’ve been able to come together around some policies that I believe will make an enormous difference for families and communities across our country on two urgent challenges: fixing our broken mental health care system, and tackling the opioid epidemic.

 

“I think it’s fair to say that these issues are personal for all of us.

 

“We’ve all heard from too many families about the struggle to find quality, effective mental health care for a loved one in need.

 

“And we’ve heard too many times about mothers and fathers who fought—often for years—to help a child break an addiction to opioids. 

 

“In my home state, I’ve heard from people like Jenny from Olympia, whose husband tragically committed suicide after he began to have psychotic episodes.

 

“He was cycled in and out of the hospital without effective treatment, and took his own life while Jenny was in the NICU with their newborn baby.

 

“And just this past week, Teresa from Kitsap County told me the story of her son Joey, who began using Percocet as he was headed to college.

 

“Joey is now 20 months into recovery—but only after years of struggling to find him effective care.

 

“Jenny and Teresa’s stories are very different, but they have one critical thing in common: our health care system let them down.

 

“And unfortunately, there are countless other stories like theirs across the country.

 

“So I’m very hopeful that the agreements we’ve reached today will begin to solve some of the problems that Jenny, Teresa, and so many others have struggled to overcome.

 

“And that we can build on the bipartisan foundation laid out in this agreement and continue working together on these issues.

 

“The Mental Health Reform Act would take several important steps to improve treatment for those struggling with mental illness and addiction.

 

“In our current system, finding quality, effective treatment is often a serious obstacle for patients and their families.

 

“So this legislation would help expand access to quality care for mental illness and substance use disorders by providing patients with convenient access to contact information for providers, strengthening coordination between local agencies engaged in crisis intervention, and critically, by establishing new residency and training programs to help meet the demand for mental health and substance use disorder specialists.

 

“Our bill would also help make sure that patients receive coordinated, rather than siloed, mental and physical health care.

 

“It would push insurance companies to comply with the law and treat mental health as just as important as physical health, and help states and communities provide early screening for young children who show signs of social or emotional challenges.

 

“And, to help communities fight back against the epidemic of opioid addiction, we’ve worked to bring bipartisan bills to this markup that would expand access to medication-assisted treatment, help states develop robust prescription drug monitoring programs, work to prevent overdose deaths by encouraging doctors to co-prescribe Naloxone with prescription opioids, and more.

 

“Again, thank you to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their leadership on these bills.

 

“I’m so glad we were able to reach agreement to bring them to markup and I look forward to supporting each of them. 

 

“I also want to note that just last week, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

 

“I said then that I was pleased to support that legislation—but that there was much more we need to do.

 

“The legislation we’re considering today is another important step in the right direction.

 

“It would help ensure that when patients and families seek treatment for mental illness or addiction, finding quality care isn’t a battle in and of itself.

 

“But as this agreement moves forward—we need to recognize, again, that our work isn’t over.

 

“For example, members on both sides of the aisle have expressed interest in revisiting the IMD exclusion, a policy that makes it extremely difficult for states to provide inpatient care to those with mental illness and substance use disorders.

 

“I certainly agree this is something we should work on—and I look forward to continuing the conversation as we head to the floor.

 

“I’m glad that we’ve established a strong, bipartisan foundation for work to improve care for mental illnesses and substance use disorders in our country.

 

“And I believe many of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, would agree that we should keep building on it.

 

“I know that’s what Jenny, Teresa, and so many other families expect.

 

“They want us to keep working together to make even more progress—and I hope that’s what we’ll do.”