Overview of HR 3717: Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013

In December 2013, Representative Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee within the Energy and Commerce Committee, released legislation aimed at addressing the needs of individuals with serious mental illness in America. The bill, Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013, tackles various aspects of the mental health system in America.

Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis moving forward, establishes an assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse. The assistant secretary will report directly to the administrator of the Department of Health and Human Services. The primary role of the assistance secretary is to coordinate the mental health and substance abuse work across the various executive offices.

The bill proposes changes to privacy regulations. It modifies the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to allow caregivers of individuals with serious mental illness access to health and educational information under such circumstances that a provider believes the individual will be of harm to self or others.

The bill includes major changes to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The newly established assistant secretary will oversee the work of the SAMHSA administrator. This includes oversight of the substance abuse and mental health block grants. The bill requires SAMHSA to discontinue all programs they administer that are not authorized in statute or that are not proven evidence-based programs.

Lastly, the bill includes provisions from related health bills as well as alterations to current legislation. The bill allows behavioral health providers to receive meaningful use Health Information Technology payments, establishes Federally Qualified Behavioral Health Clinic projects, and expands Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for psychiatric hospital stays and medication. The bill reauthorizes the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which funds suicide prevention, and modifies programs under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act to include better mental health training for law enforcement and better data collection on crimes involving people with mental illness.

The Alliance for Children and Families Public Policy Office will monitor the legislation as it moves forward.

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