I have long awaited this juncture, the partial passage of the most significant, and hopefully helpful federal mental health reform legislation in this country since President Kennedy’s 1963 Community Mental Health Center Act, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” or HR 2646. [I would encourage readers to actually follow the link to the text of the bill and give it a studied read]. Politics is ordinarily as an area I steer away from in my public blog writings as for the last 30 years it has been nothing more than a hopeless, dirty, pointless and non-productive quagmire that until recently has held no real relationship to the issues dear to this effort’s mental health professional’s heart.
But the time has come to start commenting upon, openly following in [I hope] responsible medical journalistic fashion, the life, future and fruits and/or unintended consequences of the slow legislative efforts and developments of years of failed political/legislative efforts to repair our long broken mental health care delivery system, both public and private. The Helping Families Crisis Act now appears to be the first piece of legislation with at least a reasonable potential to effect a vast amount of good effort in the right directions and quarters. One of the many recent news articles, printed over the last year or so to keep this bill alive in the public’s mind, prompted my entering into the national discussion regarding this legislation and its significance. I had held off doing so as for months it has appeared that it would be lost in the polarization of the political parties of the last four Presidential terms or buried/ignored because of lack of support since it concerned “mental health issues,” and all their complexities that at time legislators seems to avoid like the plague. But now it has recently “made it over the top,” as it were and appears destined for passage by the Senate in the near fall. In fact, it has seemed to gain a sort of hallowed status as one of those bills that the pols finally realize they had better jump on to the bandwagon rather than ignore any longer. And politically speaking, it has greatly helped that two brave Republican Congressman have fought hard for this legislation and made it politically acceptable to even most extremists to support.”
“Major federal mental health reform passed by U.S. House awaits Senate this fall,” marks this important event. This appeared in the Denver Post, August 3, 2016 written by Jennifer Brown. It was published there on the eve of Rep. Mike Coffman’s holding an open public forum on the bill in the Aurora CO area to help build support for the bill and to remind the public of the mass shooting tragedy that happened there.
Before writing any more verbiage, I must give as the younger set says these days, a “Shout Out,” to all the many many persons who have worked tirelessly and selflessly toward slogging through legislative pig-headed, tax revenue averse ideologues in state and national legislative bodies, to bring this truly humanitarian legislation to life. Very special credit goes to Representative Tim Murphy, (R) of Pennsylvania who has crafted this legislation along with other very dedicated colleagues, even within his own party which lamentably has been one of the sources of resistance to doing anything. One of those colleagues who also deserves credit is Representative Mike Coffman (R) of Aurora Colorado, the ill-fated and undeserving site of one of the recent mass shootings.
In posts to come, I will address, as the late venerated and national radio newscaster, Paul Harvey, would say, “the Rest of the Story,” concerning this bill and its backdrop. Some issues funneling into this bill’s life and evolution understandably stemmed from the increasing concern over the epidemic rise in recent mass shootings phenomenon that has gripped this country and recently started to spread to other countries also. The gun control debate and of course, the ever vigilant NRA have weighed in further unwittingly hampering the needed studied discourse needed on mental health reform and its support nationally, even before the inception of this legislation. These and several other significant social issues and viewpoints, have both helped and hindered the debate over and progress of this legislation through our uniquely clumsy national legislative process, that at times, because of deliberately constructed slow and measured process, manages at times to produce stellar results, one of which I believe and hope is this about to to be born legislation. So if you are interested in this issue, stay tuned for more posts that are more in depth and hopefully offer more understanding of ‘what all’ has been involved in this lengthy, but worthwhile process.
Many professional mental health organizations and mental health advocacy groups, such as the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, offer annual national civic prestigious awards of recognition to persons who have served these cause in truly outstanding fashion. I sincerely hope that Reps. Tim Murphy and Mike Coffman, are recipients of such, as well as, State Senator Craige Deeds of Virginia who suffered the loss of his mentally ill son Gus, two years ago in a national tragedy, and who selflessly devoted himself to similar outstanding legislative reform in the state of Virginia.