I want to raise a strong call to action. We need to pass the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (MHRA16) (S. 2680) this year. However, the likelihood of doing so is decreasing with every passing day as spring moves quickly toward summer.
For all practical purposes, the congressional calendar for 2016 will close by mid-June. This reality is due to the fall presidential and congressional elections, the upcoming summer recess, the waning energy of the current Congress, and other factors. Further, according to reliable Hill sources, a lame-duck session is unlikely.
Thus, we only have about 30 days remaining to accomplish a very large agenda:
- Bring MHRA16 to a vote in the Senate.
- Bring the Senate-approved MHRA16 to a vote in the House.
- Reconcile any differences between the two bills.
- Get the approved legislation to the president’s desk.
MHRA16 addresses very important issues in our field. These include continued support for services integration, expansion of our human resources, and support for SAMHSA. Equally important, this bill does not undermine SAMHSA, does not require assisted outpatient treatment, and does not remove essential rights from persons with disabilities. It is a “good” bill. MHRA16 has broad bipartisan support in the Senate, in the House and in the field.
We need your advocacy today to make our action steps a reality. You can:
- Send a letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate majority leader, urging him to put MHRA16 on the Senate agenda for a floor vote in the next two weeks.
- Contact your own two senators and also urge them to reach out to Senator McConnell with the same request.
- Contact Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the chair and ranking minority member, respectively, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Urge them to adopt MHRA16 as the House mental health bill in lieu of Rep. Murphy and Rep. Johnson’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR-2646), which is deeply flawed.
As part of this urgent effort, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), the authors of MHRA16, will host a Senate Mental Health Summit on Thursday, May 26. Their “Call to Action for Mental Health Reform” will be held in Room 902 of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. I urge you to attend in person if possible, but, if not, to participate in the videoconference of the entire event.
MHRA16 represents the best piece of mental health legislation to be brought forth since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. We must work quickly to get it over the finish line!