As part of its regular briefing series, this morning the Child Mind Institute welcomed to its New York City headquarters Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), who provided an update on the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015, H.R. 2646.  The Act, introduced by Reps. Murphy and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), focuses on mental health reform that would help both those with mental illness and families who are struggling to get necessary care for their loved ones.  According to Rep. Murphy, the legislation has advanced out of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, and its chances of coming up for a vote in the full House in 2016 are strong.

Rep. Murphy first discussed his view of the deficiencies in the federal government’s approach to mental health issues.  Among other challenges, he noted the shortage of psychiatric beds, the outsized role of prisons in providing mental health care, the challenges privacy rules present to physicians and family members, and the shortage of child psychiatrists.  Rep. Murphy then highlighted a number of provisions of the Act intended to address these and other problems, including:

 A new Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders, with professional mental health training, to elevate the importance of mental health, coordinate programs across different agencies, and promote evidence-based programs

A new National Mental Health Policy Laboratory to drive innovative models of care and develop evidence-based and peer-review standards for grant programs

 A requirement that the Assistant Secretary recommend a national strategy for increasing the number of psychiatrists, child and adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, and mental health peer-support specialists

• A new early childhood grant program to provide intensive services for children with serious emotional disturbances in an educational setting

 Advancements in remote tele-psychiatry to link pediatricians and primary care doctors with psychiatrists and psychologists in areas where patients don’t have access to needed care

 Dedicated funding for the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative

 Reauthorization of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Rep. Murphy’s remarks were followed by a lively discussion among the attendees, a range of New York City area practitioners and representatives of professional organizations.