WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) applauded the Senate’s passage of a version of the “Excellence in Mental Health Act” today, a bipartisan bill he co-sponsored with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) to address the nation’s fragmented mental health system.
A version of the bill was included in the so-called “doc-fix” (SGR) legislation to establish pilot programs in eight states over the next two years. The original bill was co-sponsored by 25 Senators and is supported by more than 50 mental health organizations, veterans organizations, and law enforcement groups.
“This is a great victory for the nearly one in four Americans who are living with diagnosable mental illnesses nationwide. It’s also an important step forward as we work to reach our goal that we treat these behavioral illnesses just like any other physical illness,” said Blunt. “These Americans should have the same opportunity for a cure, and this provision will help ensure communities come together and we have a system to address these problems.”
“Today’s vote is a landmark step forward in the effort to expand community mental health services for people living with mental illness and reduce the stigma around mental illness.” Stabenow said. “This is a critically important issue that touches all of our families in some way and this legislation is one of the most significant steps in decades to expand access to care. I’m glad that the both the House and the Senate were able to come together and act in a bipartisan way to strengthen mental health services.”
Senators Blunt and Stabenow introduced the Excellence in Mental Health Act in February 2013 to expand access to community mental health services and strengthen the quality of care for those living with mental illness. The bill offers current Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) with a chance to obtain the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic designation.
The bill also establishes criteria for certified community behavioral health clinics to ensure the providers cover a broad range of mental health services – including 24-hour crisis care, increased integration of physical, mental and substance abuse treatment so they are treated simultaneously rather than separately, and expanded support for families of people living with mental health issues.
The Excellence in Mental Health Act was introduced by U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui (Calif.) and Leonard Lance (N.J.) in the House. On December 12, 2013, a version of the bill was passed as an amendment in the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill is supported by more than 50 mental health organizations, veterans organizations and law enforcement organizations including: the National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs’ Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Behavioral Healthcare, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America, National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Give An Hour, among many others.
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