Senators unveil mental health bill that would create position to oversee mental health

August 03, 2015

Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced a bipartisan mental health reform bill. The pair say their measure is similar to a bill championed by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) in the House. The bill would change the privacy law, known as HIPAA, and encourage education around existing requirements, with the aim of allowing family members to have more information about their mentally ill loved ones and better care for them. The senators' legislation would create a new assistant secretary to oversee mental health. It also gives grants to improve integration of physical and mental health services and for early intervention in children who demonstrate risk factors for mental illness. It reforms Medicare and Medicaid to remove rules preventing patients from using physical and mental health services at the same place on the same day. A more controversial provision involves Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), where a judge can order someone with mental illness to follow a treatment plan. The House bill incentivizes AOT through block grants, though the proposal has been scaled back from the original proposal. The Senate bill mostly steers clear of the issue, other than a pilot program.