Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Murphy’s Mental Health Bill Reforms A "National Emergency"

For Immediate Release: November 23, 2015
Contact: Murphy Press, 202.225.2301 

(Washington, D.C.) – The Sarasota Herald-Tribune published an editorial yesterday calling on Congress to respond to Rep. Tim Murphy’s landmark Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 2646, noting how the bill streamlines programs, promotes interagency collaboration and forces the SAMHSA to more actively assess and coordinate programs.

With 165 co-sponsors H.R. 2646 has garnered endorsements from national organizations including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Treatment Advocacy CenterAmerican Academy of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryAmerican Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association among many others. Nationwide support for the legislation has come from newspaper editorsphysicians, and parents of children with mental illness. More information can be found here.

Editorial: Bill targets mental health crisis 
Editorial Board 
Sarasota Herald Tribune 
November 22, 2015
The lack of a cost-effective mental health care system in the United States results in outcomes that are both painfully hidden and obvious.

We wrote those words in August 2014, after a leading advocate of reforming that system visited Sarasota. Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican from Pennsylvania, used the occasion to tout the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act."

The bill didn't pass, and the system's outcomes have become even more painfully obvious.

- Local governments in Manatee and Sarasota counties have increasingly cited mental illnesses, and inadequate care, as substantial contributors to chronic adult homelessness. Some experts estimate that, nationwide, at least one-third of homeless adults have a mental illness.

- Reports in the Herald-Tribune underscored the problems. A project on schizophrenia, led by Carrie Seidman, included accounts from family members who have struggled to help relatives receive and coordinate the treatment they need. A series by the Herald-Tribune and Tampa Bay Times focused on patient abuse and management shortcomings in some of Florida's remaining mental health hospitals.

Fortunately, Murphy -- the only member of Congress who is a clinical psychologist -- has persisted in his pursuit of reform.

In June, Murphy and Eddie Bernice Johnson -- a Texas Democrat who is a psychiatric nurse -- filed H.R. 2646, which revised last year's legislation. To date, 117 Republicans and 46 Democrats have signed onto the bill. In Florida, 10 Republicans -- including Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key -- and three Democrats are co-sponsors; in California, 12 Democrats and seven Republicans are co-sponsors. Clearly, there is potential for bipartisanship.

The new bill and its predecessor were filed after Murphy, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Committee, held extensive hearings and community meetings on mental health policies and practices. His calls for sweeping reforms, including restructuring federal agencies, were buttressed by a critical report issued in February by the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO cited, among other deficiencies, a lack of coordination among the eight agencies that run more than 100 federal programs involved in mental health. Programs are inadequately reviewed, the report said. The founder of a mental illness policy organization summarized an important part of the report, telling USA Today that it showed "no one is in charge of reducing homelessness, arrest, suicide and violence by people with serious mental illness."

Murphy's bill seeks to streamline programs, promote interagency collaboration and force the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to more actively assess and coordinate programs. It calls for re-enforcing the work of effective, affordable community-based programs while, at the same time, increasing the number of inpatient psychiatric-care beds. The legislation would remove impediments that prevent Medicaid and Medicare from covering certain forms of cost-effective treatment.

Perhaps most important, H.R. 2646 would make two other substantial changes. It would:

1. Create limited exemptions to patient-privacy laws that currently can prevent family members from obtaining basic information about a mentally ill relative's diagnosis, medicines, appointments and other chronic illnesses -- even if the patient's condition is deteriorating and threatening. Privacy and the protection of rights are vital but currently there are too many barriers for caregivers who are essential to recovery.

2. Provide incentives for states to fund "assisted outpatient treatment." AOT programs allow judges to order patients incapable of caring for themselves to undergo treatment in the community, rather than in a jail or hospital.

Implementation of these changes would require oversight, but they seem necessary and beneficial.

Murphy does not understate the challenge when he calls reform a "national emergency." He has placed the equivalent of a 911 call to Washington, D.C. Will Congress respond?

Read more: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20151122/OPINION/151129977?p=3&tc=pg

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Thursday, November 5, 2015


A Major Victory for Mental Health Reform

“After nearly 12 hours in markup, the bill was moved to the Energy and Commerce Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18 ayes and 12 nays," said the Treatment Advocacy Center. "All provisions to help the most severely mentally ill remain." 

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646) made it out of the health subcommittee markup yesterday with all provisions intact to help the most severely mentally ill. 
Introduced by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), this landmark bill has the tremendous bipartisan support of 162 Representatives, and focuses on mental health reform for those with severe mental illness and their families who are struggling to get necessary care for their loved one.
“The whole point of advancing mental health reform is to help people most in need — the severely mentally ill, particularly people who may not understand they have an illness,” said Treatment Advocacy Center Executive Director John Snook. “Keeping these vital provisions intact means that for the first time, evidence-based mental health services will be targeted to help those with severe mental illness and the families who care for them.”
Key provisions for the most severely ill that will remain in the bill as it advances include:
  • Creates an Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders to coordinate efforts and elevate the importance of mental health and severe mental illness in the federal government; 
  • Awards funding to states and local jurisdictions to implement lifesaving, evidence-based treatment programs, called “assisted outpatient treatment” (AOT) laws for people who are too sick to maintain treatment themselves;
  • Reforms the IMD exclusion to increase the availability of psychiatric inpatient beds; and
  • Clarifies HIPAA to ensure mental health professionals are legally permitted to share critical diagnostic criteria and treatment information with parents or caregivers of patients with serious mental illness. 
At yesterday’s markup, lawmakers heard from an audience of families who have felt powerless to prevent their loved ones’ deterioration. 
Mothers of children battling mental illness were among those who attended the committee markup to show their support for the bill, wearing neon pink stickers that said “Show Compassion Not Politics” urging members to keep provisions that would protect their loved ones.
Tanya Shuy, a Maryland resident who lost her 26-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, to suicide this year said she is determined to see a change in the system that sent her daughter to the grave.
Maintaining the bill’s focus on severe mental illness during the markup process was one of the most important steps toward meaningful mental health reform. After nearly 12 hours, the bill moved to the Energy and Commerce Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18 ayes and 12 nays. 
To become law, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act also requires approval by the Energy and Commerce Committee, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and President Obama. 
The Treatment Advocacy Center is among the many groups who applaud Representatives Murphy and Johnson. We also applaud the mental health advocates and families affected by serious mental illness for rallying together during this watershed moment for mental health reform and giving a voice to the voiceless.
The Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness. The nonprofit promotes laws, policies and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The organization does not accept funding from the pharmaceutical industry. The American Psychiatric Association awarded the Treatment Advocacy Center its 2006 presidential commendation for "sustained extraordinary advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable mentally ill patients who lack the insight to seek and continue effective care and benefit from assisted outpatient treatment.”

Labor commissioner's widow describes night of killing and his last words she heard - Tulsa World: Capitol Report

OKLAHOMA CITY — Cathy Costello said she and her husband, Mark, spent years trying to help their son, Christian, in his struggle with mental illness.
Those efforts ended Aug. 23 in a tragic meeting at a Braum’s in Oklahoma City.
Christian had asked to speak with Mark alone in the ice cream shop about Christian’s girlfriend, Cathy Costello said.
Cathy Costello went outside to wait. As she sat in the car texting their daughter, her husband slammed his hands on the car window, she said.
“I looked up. He was, I thought, covered in a bucket of paint. And the last words I heard him say were ‘call 911,’ ” Cathy Costello told state lawmakers on Tuesday during an interim study on assisted outpatient treatment for those who have a mental illness.
She then realized Mark Costello’s throat had been slashed, she said.
“I hopped out of the car,” she said. “And there was my son with a knife and my husband, like a wounded deer, stumbling away. And I am screaming at the 20 people standing there to help me. Call 911.”
She said she put her arms between her son and husband and begged Christian to stop.
“And he takes the knife and he puts it at my throat and said, ‘Get back, Mom,’ ” she said. “I thought if he cuts my throat, I can’t help Mark.”
She got Mark Costello inside the vehicle. He had been stabbed 17 times, including three wounds to the face, once to the head and several to the chest and back, she said.
“And I put my arms around Mark,” she said. “And I put my hand on his neck thinking I needed to put pressure on the wound. I knew he was dying. I could hear his lungs collapsing. And I whispered in his ear, ‘I love you. May God forgive you of your sins. Be prepared to go to heaven and meet your maker. Hold on sweetheart. You are going to make it.’ I knew he wasn’t.”
Police said Christian Costello, 26, stabbed his father repeatedly inside and outside the ice cream store. The 59-year-old state Labor Commissioner died that night at a hospital.
Christian had called his parents seeking the meeting, Cathy Costello said. They met at Braum’s, but went to a cafeteria where Christian told them he was off his medication, which caused alarm, she said. They returned to Braum’s, where the attack, occurred, she said.
Christian was diagnosed with mental illness eight years ago, Cathy Costello said.
Prior to the development of his illness, he was loving, kind, considerate and never violent, she said. He had a love for God, his mother said. Some suggested he would be a priest, she said.
As his adolescence came and went, the family began to notice that he would pace around, talk to himself and have arguments with someone in the shower, Cathy Costello said.
He would go with her to the doctor and take the medication, but he was always leery of it, she said. He thought the medication was poison, she said.
When he was on the medication, he would tell her that he had acted crazy off of it and said some weird things, urging her to make sure he took the medication because it made him feel better, she said.
Off the medication, her son believed his parents were evil, spying on him and had put cameras in his apartment and car, she said.
The family spent $150,000 on treatment that included 10 trips to facilities in and out of the state, she said.
She said Mark Costello tried to save his son day in and day out.
“The man was on his knees every day praying for his son, every day praying for a solution,” Cathy Costello said. “He wouldn’t give up.”
Terri White, Commissioner for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said assisted outpatient treatment, which is court ordered, requires a substantial investment of resources, but will reduce costs in other areas, such as future hospitalizations.
Cathy Costello has asked Gov. Mary Fallin to appoint her as labor commissioner, a position she hopes to use to raise awareness about mental illness.
Read the entire story here:

Labor commissioner's widow describes night of killing and his last words she heard - Tulsa World: Capitol Report