Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hundreds of NAMI families gather for Dr. Murphy’s keynote speech on HR 3717

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act provides grants to police departments so officers understand how to approach an individual in the midst of a psychotic episode.At a standing-room only event, Congressman Tim Murphy thanked more than 600 parents and mental health advocates at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) national convention this week for their efforts to rebuild the nation’s broken mental health system.

“You are tireless advocates for your sons, daughters, parents, brothers, and sisters who must battle each day, through no fault of their own, an illness that is misunderstood and stigmatized. And in doing so, you must also battle a system that is inherently discriminatory, cruel, and inhumane. It is a system that is caused by and causes stigma. It is a broken system that must be changed,” he told the crowd.

Murphy, who received two standing ovations, outlined his vision for how the mental health system should function. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717), which “delivers care to those with severe mental illness who need better treatment — real treatment — not excuses and not delays.”

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is the result of a year’s work of research and review of the nation’s mental health system. Local Southwestern PA feedback proved crucial in drafting the bill, as Murphy held six public forums in Southwestern Pennsylvania open to all constituents, as well as town hall meetings, and dozens of events to discuss with parents, providers, and law enforcement about the committee’s findings and ideas to improve care for the severely mentally ill.

During his speech, often interrupted by spontaneous applause, Murphy emphasized fixing the federal health rules that prevent doctors from sharing information or even speaking to parents about their mentally ill child. Confusion over the privacy standard has prevented well-meaning families from helping loved ones who are unable to maintain a their own treatment plan and need help from family caregivers, such as the most basic elements of medical care like keeping scheduled doctor appointments and filling prescriptions.

Rep. Murphy explained when a patient is discharged from a hospital with anything from a minor cut to a heart transplant, there is a written treatment plan that is readily shared with family members who will assist with follow-up.

“But not so with serious mental illness. We would not do this to someone with Alzheimer's. We would not say, ‘I can't treat your grandmother until she is well enough to tell me to treat her, but I can't tell you about her treatment until she gives you permission.’ The HIPAA privacy rule was put in place to protect people from being mistreated. But now they’re used to prevent the seriously mentally ill from being treated, and keeping well-meaning family members from helping."

Family members wear "Support the Murphy Bill" pins at meetings in US Capitol

Prior to addressing the convention, Rep. Murphy hosted a dialogue with family members and supporters of the bill from across the country, including Pennsylvania, to learn more about their difficulties navigating a disjointed and broken mental health system. Many participants shared heartbreaking stories of the doors to treatment literally being shut in their face as their loved ones spiraled downwards. A particularly harrowing tale involved a seriously mentally ill young man who died tragically in an altercation with local law enforcement that did not understand the signs of psychosis and not trained in how to de-escalate a crisis situation with someone experiencing delusions.

Advocates from NAMI chapters in New York state, Oklahoma, California, and Ohio then went to other congressional offices to drum up support for the bill.

“I know we will be successful because your love is stronger than any financial interests, than ignorance, or political gamesmanship,” Rep. Murphy said.

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