Congress Passes Landmark Step Forward in Community Mental Health Funding Authored by Senator Stabenow

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Senate today passed a demonstration project of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow's Excellence in Mental Health Act, which she introduced last year with Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). Stabenow's legislation, one of the most significant steps forward in mental health funding in decades, expands access to community mental health services and strengthens the quality of care provided for those living with mental illness.

The version of the legislation, included in the Protecting Access to Medicare Act, establishes pilot programs in eight states to increase access to community mental health centers and improve the quality of care at those centers. Those programs could then be extended to other states. The bill, passed by the House of Representatives last week, now heads to President Obama for his signature.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, said: "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. 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."

Malkia Newman, Board Chair, Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority, said: "I lived over 30 years with undiagnosed Bi-Polar Disorder. But my life is a testament to the fact that recovery is possible, thanks to the services and supports that I received through Community Network Services, a core provider agency for the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority. I am so happy to be here today with all of these supporters who have worked so hard to make increased access to treatment a reality. Thank you Congress, for passing this bill so that everyone can get the mental health help they need."

Faustino Venzor, who is living with mental illness and receiving treatment, said: "I have struggled with manic depression for most of my adult life, after an acute psychiatric crisis in 2001. I was saved that day by quick action taken by my mother and by a community clinic where I was taken to receive treatment. Today, I am grateful to be in recovery, I have a loving wife and a three-month old baby, and I've been admitted to Columbia University in hopes of pursuing medicine. I know firsthand the difference that intensive community-based services can make in the lives of people with serious mental illness, which is why I support the Excellence in Mental Health Act."

Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of National Council for Behavioral Health, said: "This represents the largest single federal investment in community-based mental and substance use treatment in well over a generation. After decades of devastating funding cuts, this represents a turning point in terms of federal support of community mental health services."

Alexander Nicholson, Legislative Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said: "This important legislation is a huge step forward in strengthening community mental health so that more veterans will have access to the mental health resources they need. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America members from across the country visited Capitol Hill last week to urge Congress to support efforts to strengthen mental health services for veterans and help reduce suicide among veterans. We stand with Senators Stabenow and Blunt and thank them for their effort to make sure that veterans, and all Americans living with mental illness, can get access to the treatment they need."

Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, Founder and President, Give An Hour, said: "As we continue to address the mental health needs of our military and veteran community, we must remember that one size doesn't fit all. Some who come home with the understandable invisible injuries of war will seek services through the Department of Veterans Affairs, some will seek care through organizations like Give an Hour. And others will seek the treatment and support that they need and deserve from their local community mental health centers. The Excellence in Mental Health Act is critical legislation that will help ensure that those who serve are able to access quality mental health care where they live, when they need it."

Sheriff Mike Chapman, Sheriff of Loudon County, VA, said: "As Loudoun's Sheriff and a member of the Major County Sheriffs' Association, I am excited to see this bill advance. The Excellence in Mental Health Act will go a long way in helping those in need and greatly benefit our law enforcement and support communities."

Sheriff Brian Gootkin, Sheriff of Gallatin County, MT, said: "I am proud to stand with this great group of legislators and supporters to applaud the passage of the Excellence in Mental Health Act. I've been in law enforcement since 1993, and in the Air Force before that, and I've seen how dire the consequences can be when those living with mental illness and their families do not get the care they need. That is why it is more important than ever that we strengthen our community mental health services across the nation. I'm glad that Congress was able to put aside party politics and come together to help those living with mental illness."

Jacob Angel, Founder and Executive Director of the Military Mental Health Project, said: "Mental illness is something that transcends the boundaries of race, gender and class; it is an issue that affects all communities in some way. The strengthening and expansion of mental health services in the United States should be and must be a top priority. Today lawmakers have taken a crucial first step toward achieving true parity between physical and mental health care."

Center for American Progress Action Fund said: "The Excellence in Mental Health Act represents an important step forward for families struggling to obtain quality mental health care for their loved ones. It will make care more available in communities across the country so those living with mental illness will be able to get the help that they need."

The Excellence in Mental Health Act was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators including Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The bill is supported by over 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.