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H.R. 3717 Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis

2012 words - 9 pages

On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old mentally ill young man named Adam Lanza walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and shot 20 children and six adults. This was the catalyst for a national debate surrounding the issues of mass shootings, media violence, and especially gun control. Under the direction of House leadership, the only psychologist in Congress began studying comprehensive reform of the United States mental healthcare system. One year later, Dr. Tim Murphy, Representative from Pennsylvania’s 18th District introduced H.R. 3717, The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. The bill’s intent is to address the lack of treatment options at the local level, the absence ...view middle of the document...

The bill also helps law enforcement by providing public safety grants for mental health treatment for prisons and training for police departments about how to deal with mentally ill criminals. (U.S. Congress, 2013)
One of the more controversial aspects of the proposed legislation allows family members to have access to private health care information against the will of the mentally ill. This would occur when the doctor treating the patient reasonably believes (subject to litigation) that there is a risk that a patient might harm the health or safety of themselves or another. This is a dramatic shift from previous law as health records have historically been one of the most protected pieces of personal information. In a recent mass shooting on a college campus in Santa Barbara the community was bewildered to learn that the killer had been questioned by police about potential violence not one month prior to the incident. They found him to be stable and were legally unable to do anything. H.R. 3717 would move the burden of subjecting a patient against their will to treatment away from police and into the hands of professionals. There are also provisions in the Medicaid and Social Security Acts that allow states to bar payment for patients that see multiple doctors in one day. The intent of this legislation is to keep costs low and prevent abuse. However, this policy disadvantages the mentally ill who desperately need to see a psychologist quickly after visiting with a primary care physician. H.R. 3717 corrects this issue by providing Medicaid patients with greater flexibility in who they can visit in one day. (U.S. Congress, 2013)
Funding and Structure
While civil rights advocates have a problem with the potential privacy violations of H.R. 3717, the bill also faces criticism from fiscal conservatives. They are against any concept of increasing government spending, which this legislation does. While H.R 3717 mostly relies on expanding definitions within Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to make mental health patients eligible for treatment and mental health professionals eligible to receive payment, the bill also increases funding for research at the National Institute of Mental Health. However, proponents of government efficiency can support the bill because of its requirements to spend money on evidence-based scientific research, which could greatly improve efficiency of programs already in existence. (U.S. Congress, 2013)
The bill would also restructure the responsibilities of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by moving decision-making authority away from the Center for Mental Health Services (a branch of the current Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) up to the newly created Assistant Secretary of Mental Health. By bringing up the responsibility of administering some community block grants to the new mental health agency mental health policy has more accountability. The...

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