Bill Johnson supports landmark mental health bill

Mental Health is one of those issues that only someone who has a personal involvement, or has someone close to them with those issues, is interested in.

However, as it is being learned every day, the mental health crisis affects nearly all of us in one way or the other. And now, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed landmark legislation with H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which would reform the nation’s mental health care system. The legislation passed 422-2. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), who represents a portion of Scioto County, was an original co-sponsor of the bill.

“For too long, the conversation about mental health reform has only been just that — a conversation. In the meantime, those suffering from mental illness have been neglected by an ineffective system. Just like all other patients, they should get the care and medications they need,” Johnson said. “This legislation will help both individuals and families identify and treat their conditions. By removing barriers to care, expanding the mental health workforce, reallocating funds toward treatment programs such as early intervention, prevention, and behavioral care programs, and better outreach to underserved and rural populations like many parts of eastern and southeastern Ohio, patients will have a better quality of care. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate: it touches every community, and it doesn’t know race, gender, age, or political affiliation.”

H.R. 2646 creates the position of Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders to take over the responsibilities of the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Mental health programs are extended and training regarding mental health is expanded.

As a result, SAMHSA must establish the National Mental Health Policy Laboratory and the Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee.

“There is no doubt that there is more work to do, but this legislation is an important first step,” Johnson said. “I’m proud to have voted yes on this bill and I hope the Senate follows the House’s bipartisan example.”

In addition, the bill amends the Public Health Service Act to require the National Institute of Mental Health to translate evidence-based interventions and the best available science into systems of care; certain mental health care professional volunteers are provided liability protection; pediatric mental health subspecialists are eligible for National Health Service Corps programs, and an underserved population of children or a site for training in child psychiatry can be designated as a health professional shortage area.

Health information technology activities and incentives are expanded to include certain mental health and substance abuse professionals and facilities.

“It fills a void that has existed for decades now since we de-institutionalized in the 1970s,” Christopher Gibson R-New York said. “A decision I support, but we never put federal policy behind it until today. Resources for the local level, inpatient care for Americans and families and mental health crisis. It improves coordination across the agencies to deliver better suicide awareness and prevention in mental health.”

By Frank Lewis

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Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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