By Aubrey Boggs, CMWN Intern

While the name “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” makes for a positive and promising sounding bill, many individuals have had serious complaints concerning aspects of the bill. From leniency around HIPAA regulations to diminishing the ability of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to serve communities and individuals, the issues present within the bill directly affect the lives of individuals with mental health conditions and their recovery. A revised version, from Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, offers some changes from the original bill from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa) that could potentially benefit the bill, although many more changes may still be needed.

Here are the reported changes so far:

  1. While the original bill sought to lessen the privacy afforded to patients through HIPAA, providing access to confidential information to relatives of someone with a mental health condition, the revised version seeks to have the Department of Health and Human Services review HIPAA regulations.
  2. The original bill proposed a new position of assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse disorders that would have assumed duties of the administrator for SAMHSA. The revised version still includes this new position, although without appropriating the responsibility of the SAMHSA administrator.
  3. The original bill offered a 2% block grant funding increase for states with assisted outpatient treatment, which mandates treatment and possible medication. The bill would have done this through the proposed National Mental Health Policy Lab, however the provision for incentivizing assisted outpatient treatment to states was taken out. The National Mental Health Policy Lab would still be established under the revised bill and would focus on policy initiatives surrounding substance use and mental health, but without permitting the use of block grants to further certain initiatives.
  4. In an effort to cut costs, the revised bill would get rid of a provision which sought no-limit Medicaid coverage for inpatient mental health care and instead offer to codify into law changes to Medicaid for coverage of inpatient mental health stays, but for no longer than 15 days.

Next month the Energy and Commerce Committee will conduct a markup on the bill. These changes, while they seem positive, may not be enough to make this bill one that encourages recovery and serves the needs for individuals with mental health conditions.

What do you think? Does this bill need even more revision or to be replaced by another bill? Or are the changes presented here enough to consider this bill worthwhile?


Diamond, D. (2016, May 24). Committee plans mental health markup. Politico. Retrieved from

Sullivan, P. (2016, May 20). Time runs short on house gop bill tackling mental health, mass shootings. The Hill. Retrieved from


Updates to Federal Mental Health Reform Legislation

Amanda Kearney-Smith

I founded the Network as the Executive Director in 2011 and, before that, I was a program director at Mental Health Colorado. My educational background is in Developmental Psychology, but living with bipolar disorder has drawn me to this work. I'm most passionate about protecting the civil rights and dignity of others. In my free time, I love reading, practicing yoga, and spending time with my family here and in Illinois.

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