Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Recent White House Perimeter Breaches Shine Spotlight on Broken Mental Health System

cid:image001.gif@01CE6085.30391FD0Tim Murphy
U.S. Congressman for the 18th District of Pennsylvania

 Secret Service Director Admits: 
“We are limited by the laws”

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Contact: Murphy Press, 202.225.2301 
(PITTSBURGH, PA) – When an Army veteran with post-traumatic stress who had been living out of his car scaled the White House fence and entered the building’s front door to warn the President that “the atmosphere was collapsing,” the public and Members of Congress expressed alarm over lax security, prompting a congressional oversight panel to convene a hearing to examine the breach. Just weeks prior, a similar breach of White House security occurred when a young man with a known history of mental illness jumped over the White House fence.

Rep. Tim Murphy noted these incidents raise a more fundamental question than the Secret Service’s ability to protect the President.

“Each of these cases could have ended in fatalities because of our failed mental health system. These incidents are not just breakdowns in Secret Service efforts to protect the President, but back-to-back examples showing what happens when patients with serious mental illness do not get treatment before tragedy.”
Appearing yesterday before the House Government Reform & Oversight Committee, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson acknowledged the same: “We all are outraged at how this situation came to pass ... it is obvious that mistakes were made. We don’t take it lightly [but] there is not a lot we can do with mentally ill individuals who do not commit a crime. We are limited by the laws.”

Dr. Murphy is the author of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717), which has been described as the most comprehensive overhaul of the mental health system since the Kennedy Administration. With a focus on delivering acute psychiatric care to the most challenging cases of serious mental illness, it includes provisions to expand access to inpatient and outpatient psychiatric treatment. Murphy’s bill also encourages states to adopt a commitment standard allowing intervention before a person becomes imminently dangerous. The bill also breaks down convoluted legal barriers that prevent family members from helping a loved one with a serious mental illness get treatment. In both cases, family members were aware the individuals needed help.

“We need more treatment not just higher fences,” said Murphy.
He continued, “These incidents aren’t just happening at the White House. Each day the failures of our nation’s mental health system become headline news, yet Congress and the White House take no real meaningful action to respond or deliver treatment until after a tragedy occurs.” 

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