Stabenow-Blunt Excellence in Mental Health Act

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Important bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Senator Stabenow of Michigan

The following text is adapted from a press release of Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow. AMHF applauds the efforts behind this enlightened legislation.

In mid-December 2013, the United States Senate Finance Committee approved the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act, authored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), to expand access to community mental-health services and strengthen the quality of care provided.

The bill was included as an amendment to the so-called doc fix (SGR) bill that permanently reforms the way doctors are reimbursed by Medicare.

The version of the Excellence in Mental Health Act voted for in committee today would establish pilot programs in ten states to strengthen and improve access to care.

Congressional action on this bill came two days before the first anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Strengthening mental-health services isn’t partisan. It is an important issue that touches all of our families in some way,” said Stabenow. “Our bipartisan bill expands access to care and improves quality of care so people living with mental illness can get the treatment they need. Instead of merely talking about this issue in the wake of tragedies, it is time for Congress to finally take action.”

“This is an important step forward as we work to fix America’s mental-health policies,” said Blunt. “We’ve got a model that works to solve these important problems. It’s time for Congress to act.”

The Excellence in Mental Health Act establishes criteria for certified community-behavioral health clinics to ensure the providers cover a broad range of mental-health services—including twenty-four-hour crisis care, increased integration of physical, mental, and substance-abuse treatment so they are treated simultaneously rather than separately, and expanded support for families of people living with mental-health issues.

The Act was cosponsored by a heavyweight bipartisan group of Senators, including Stabenow and Blunt, 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) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The bill is supported by over fifty mental-health organizations, veterans’, and law-enforcement organizations: 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 others.

More information on the Excellence in Mental Health Act is below.

Excellence in Mental Health Act

• The Excellence in Mental Health Act proposal will improve quality and expand access to mental-health care through community mental-health providers.

• It will provide the final step toward mental-health parity so citizens are paying for mental-health services in the community the same way primary-care services are paid.


• The proposal would establish a ten-state demonstration program wherein states that participate would certify that community mental-health providers meet new high standards and offer a broad range of mental-health services like twenty-four-hour crisis psychiatric services.

• Those services can then be adequately reimbursed under Medicaid just as Federally Qualified Community Health Centers are reimbursed for comprehensive primary care services.

• It also requires more coordination between community mental health providers and other healthcare providers including VA clinics.

• CBO estimates this proposal would cost $1.6 billion over ten years.

Access to Mental Health Treatment Must Be Expanded

• Less than half of those with mental health disorders receive treatment of any kind in a given year.

• Twenty-two Veterans a day commit suicide. With at least 25 percent of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan experiencing some type of mental health condition, such as PTSD, it is even more urgent that comprehensive services be available in communities.

• Individuals with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of a violent crime than to commit one. However, if someone does not receive treatment after experiencing their first psychotic episode they are fifteen times more likely to commit acts of violence than if they receive treatment.

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