Senators Bill Cassidy (R.-La.) and Chris Murphy (D.-Conn.) have proposed a bipartisan mental-health reform bill with an eight-point agenda intended to shore up the U.S. mental-health system (1.usa.gov/1NazR8y). Among other measures, the bill proposes to designate an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, require audits on mental- and physical-health-parity law implementation, and establish new grants for early mental-health intervention.
Of course, given the close connections among behavioral health, mental heath and “physical health” (as if the brain isn’t an organ!) such a bill, if it becomes law, could have a huge impact across the healthcare system.
Senator Murphy’s office sent us this summary of the bill:
The Cassidy-Murphy Mental Health Reform Act will do the following:
Integrate Physical and Mental Health
- Encourages states to break down walls between physical and mental health care systems by requiring states to identify barriers to integration. States would be eligible for grants of up to $2 million for five years, prioritizing those states that have already taken action. States taking part are eligible with additional federal funds to treat low-income individuals who have chronic conditions or serious and persistent mental illness.
Designate an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use
- Elevates the issue of mental health by establishing an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who will be responsible for overseeing grants and promoting best practices in early diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. The Assistant Secretary will work with other federal agencies and key stakeholders to coordinate mental health services across the federal system and help them to identify and implement effective and promising models of care.
Establish New Grant Programs for Early Intervention
- Establishes a grant program focused on intensive early intervention for children as young as 3 years of age who demonstrate significant risk factors recognized as related to mental illness in adolescence and adulthood. A second grant program supports pediatrician consultation with mental health teams, which has seen great success in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Establish Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee
- Establishes a Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Coordination Committee under the Assistant Secretary to ensure documentation and promotion of research and treatment related to SMI and evaluate efficiency of government programs for individuals.
Establish New National Mental Health Policy Laboratory
- New entity will fund innovation grants that identify new and effective models of care and demonstration grants to bring effective models to scale for adults and children.
Reauthorize Successful Research & Grant Programs
- Reauthorizes key programs like the Community Mental Health Block Grants and state-based data collection. The bill also increases funding for critical biomedical research on mental health.
Strengthen Transparency and Enforcement of Mental Health Parity
- Requires the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury to conduct audits on Mental Health Parity implementation and issue guidance on how determinations are made regarding comparability mental health services and physical health services.
Improve Mental Health Services within Medicare/Medicaid
- Makes critical reforms to allow for patients to use mental health services and primary care services at the same location, on the same day. Repeals the current Medicaid exclusion on inpatient care for individuals between the ages of 22 and 64 if the CMS actuary certifies that it would not lead to a net increase of federal spending.