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Disability Rights Network PA, Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association Oppose Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013

Rep. Tim Murphy's bill undermines 30 years of mental health system successes and will eradicate critical mental health services, protections, and supports

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Dec 12, 2013, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) introduced the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013. Disabilities Rights Network (DRN), Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania (MHAPA), and the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association (PMHCA) oppose this legislation. If passed, it would have a profoundly negative impact on Pennsylvanians living with mental illness, as wells as their families and communities.

We find many of the bill's provisions troubling and urge legislators not to sponsor it. Of most concern are the provisions that would essentially dismantle the efforts of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the public health agency dedicated to mental health and addiction issues, to promote recovery and community inclusion for diverse populations.

In particular, the bill proposes: 

  • Eliminating SAMHSA programs that have been developed by and for consumers, and which are critical supports to ensure that consumers serve as catalysts for transformation within the mental health and related systems in their states.
  • Changing privacy laws in ways that would likely lead to the erosion of protections and disruption of patient-provider relationships. 
  • The use of assisted outpatient treatment criteria that will unnecessarily violate the right of persons with mental health conditions to informed consent and diminish their dignity, autonomy, and self-determination. Involuntary treatment should only occur as a last resort and should be limited to instances where persons pose a serious risk of physical harm to themselves or others.  Pennsylvania already allows for outpatient commitment. This is an unnecessary intrusion into state jurisdiction.
  • Cutting the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) authorization by 85% ($37 million to $5 million). PAIMI helps ensure that people with mental illness and disabilities are free from abuse and neglect and receive critical services and supports. These cuts would leave individuals and their families without independent advocates to help with the myriad of issues individuals with mental health conditions face every day.
  • The bill also proposes preventing PAIMI from engaging in class action lawsuits, key tools in initiating systemic reform that impacts groups of people suffering abuse or rights violations. Similarly, the legislation would prevent PAIMI program staff from public policy advocacy. The result: individuals and families will lose their voices in the legislative process and policy makers will lose an important independent resource for understanding the systemic changes that protect individuals with mental illness. 
  • This legislation also proposes to unravel SAMHSA through a number of provisions that eliminate key programs, including critical prevention and early intervention supports and services.

In a time when mental illness and mental health care is at the forefront of the national agenda, we believe that Rep. Murphy's legislation is harmful and does nothing to advance—but serves to destroy—agencies, programs, and policies that support people living with mental illness and disabilities. We believe it is counter intuitive and irresponsible to cut or dismantle programs with proven track records and longtime successes. 

While we do find some positive aspects of the bill—including reauthorizing the Garret Lee Smith Memorial Act, Mental Health First Aid Act, and the Children's Recovery from Trauma Act, among others—the negative aspects of this bill far outweigh the positive. 

SOURCE Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania

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