SARDAA Executive Director, Linda Stalters attended Rep. Tim Murphy’s hearing: “Where have all the patients gone?” and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) event, entitled “Fixing the mental health care system: What Congress can do,” in Washington, D.C.

Linda Stalters and Rep. Tim Murphy

Linda Stalters and Rep. Tim Murphy

In 1950 there were more than 559,000 psychiatric beds in the United States, today there are fewer than 45,000. This staggering lack of inpatient options for those with serious mental illness has put a tremendous strain on public services. Rep. Murphy convened an investigative hearing this week to explore the effects of this shortage, which convened leaders from the criminal justice, law enforcement, and medical communities to testify on how the failures of the mental health system are stressing police forces, jails, and emergency rooms.

The President of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, Michael Biasotti, spoke extensively on the need to expand the use of the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) model of care. AOT, which is a cornerstone of Rep. Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717), is an evidence-based alternative to inpatient care for those who need treatment and allows them to lead productive lives in the community. In New York, this medical model has decreased homelessness, repeated hospitalizations, and incarceration of those with mental illness by more than 70 percent.

AEI panel 1Until this week the federal government had never incentivizes AOT. But on Thursday, the House passed the Protecting Access to Medicare Act, which includes a section authored by Rep. Murphy to encourage counties to establish AOT programs. The bill is expected to be considered in the Senate and signed on Monday. You can read more about Rep. Murphy’s successful legislative efforts here.

“The legislation passed today is a tremendous step forward in expanding mental health services, and gives our effort to bring mental illness out of the shadows a major momentum boost as the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act moves through the Energy and Commerce Committee,” said Rep. Murphy.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which now has 60 bipartisan cosponsors, will be the focus of the a legislative hearing on at the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. This is the first step in the process of bring the legislation before the entire House of Representatives for a vote.

The hearing will focus on how the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act addresses the structural deficiencies in the federal mental health system. Chairman Murphy’s investigations has revealed that individuals diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness are more likely to end up in jail or on the streets because they aren’t getting the treatment they need from our broken mental health system.

On Friday morning, Rep. Murphy announced this critical legislative step at a public policy forum he headlined at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C. The event, entitled “Fixing the mental health care system: What Congress can do,” also featured former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI); American Psychiatric Association President Jeffrey Lieberman, MD; AEI scholar Sally Satel, MD; and E. Fuller Torrey, MD, of the Stanley Medical Research Institute. The forum will be aired soon on CSPAN and can be viewed on the AEI web site.

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