Monday, December 22, 2014

Nation needs to treat mental illness as a crisis ~ Thank you, Tampa Tribune!

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

Tampa Tribune Endorses The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

For Immediate Release: Monday, December 22, 2014
Contact: Murphy Press202.225.2301
(WASHINGTON, DC) – After meeting with Congressman Tim Murphy, PhD, last week, the Tampa Tribune became the 21stnewspaper to endorse the bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717). Nationwide support from parents of children with mental illness, newspapers such as the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, and mental health professionals continues to pour in for the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act.

Here’s the Tampa Tribune editorial in support of Dr. Murphy’s bipartisan legislation:
Nation needs to treat mental illness as a crisis
By the Editorial Board, December 21, 2014

What will it take to get this country to treat mental illness as the national crisis it has become?

Throughout the United States, more than 50 million Americans experience some form of mental illness a year — 11 million are considered severely mentally ill.

Beds in treatment centers are being replaced by beds in county jails and prisons. Homeless people with mental illness are roaming the streets. Millions of residents with mental illnesses aren’t in treatment. Federal and state laws have become a barrier to people who need help the most.

And mass killings carried out by people with mental illnesses are becoming far too common.

A major reform is greatly needed. U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania offers one in The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Congress should approve it, and President Obama should sign it.

Murphy, a Republican, has been studying the nation’s shoddy mental health treatment networks and laws since Adam Lanza gunned down 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Lanza, who killed himself, was mentally ill but resisted therapies and wouldn’t take his medication, reports show.

Murphy knows what he is talking about. He is a mental health professional — a psychologist — who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He is being assisted in his calling for national awareness of mental illness by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, among others.

The legislation, which so far has garnered 115 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, would put the focus back on where it should be — providing treatment for people who need it, instead of criminalizing mental illness.

The legislation would address a shortage of inpatient beds by lifting a 16-bed cap in cases where Medicaid funds care. It would advance “tele-psychiatry” to connect pediatricians and other doctors with mental health professionals in areas where patients have no or limited access to such care. Brain research funding would be increased.

The federal privacy law known as HIPPA, which often prevents critical exchanges of information, would be amended to free up mental health professionals and relatives of the mentally ill to discuss a patient’s background and issues. This would allow quicker treatment.
Medical malpractice insurance issues would be addressed to allow more physicians to volunteer at mental health centers and clinics, enabling more people to be treated.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — which has been criticized for poor accountability for mental health funding — in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would be reformed. A new high-level position would be created — assistant secretary for mental health — to elevate awareness of mental illness and have a point person to lead a national effort.

Funding for mental health programs would be reviewed for effectiveness. Training for law enforcement officers would be expanded, and “mental health courts” advanced so patients with mental illnesses aren’t warehoused behind bars.

Treatment options would be increased as alternatives to institutionalization.

And states would be encouraged to update laws regarding involuntary commitment of the mentally ill so they can be treated. In Florida and several other states, that step only can be taken if individuals pose an imminent threat to themselves and others. Although due care must be taken, it makes sense to allow for a reduced standard in certain circumstances to protect the public from mentally ill persons who may become violent — and to prevent them from harming themselves.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act would reform how the country treats mental illness and the mentally ill. It also would have a cumulative effect. Lives would be saved. Taxpayers would save money, Murphy believes, and the rates of suicide, homicide and homelessness would go down.

“We need to change the system,” says Murphy. We agree.

Click here to read online. 

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