Our mental health system is in crisis, but HR 3717 isn’t the answer

Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania has introduced the “Helping Families and Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013.” He ought to be commended for focusing on the needs of individuals with the most serious and persistent mental illnesses, and for including several provisions designed to significantly strengthen the community mental health system. However, a broad coalition of organizations believes the bill takes the wrong approach.
HR 3717 increases reliance on court-ordered involuntary treatment and forced medication. It also tilts the membership of several federal policy, planning, and advisory bodies away from individuals living with mental illness toward licensed medical professionals. It eliminates all Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration  mental health programs not specifically reauthorized by an act of Congress. Finally, it reduces funding for the Disability Law Center ’s protection and advocacy program for those living with severe mental illness by 85%.
The mental health system is in crisis. However, the answer is not to perpetuate discrimination against individuals with mental illness or deprive them of their rights. Instead, we must enhance and expand the community-based infrastructure to ensure our families, friends, and neighbors with mental health needs have the necessary supports and resources to be active, productive, and contributing members of our community.
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Adina Zahradnikova
Executive Director, Disability Law Center

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