Actress Glenn Close joined U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) for a press conference today to urge Congress to pass the bipartisan "Excellence in Mental Health Act," which was approved by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee last week.
Close is the founder of Bring Change 2 Mind, which works to end the stigma and discrimination against those living with mental illness. The Senators were also joined by mental health advocates, veterans, and law enforcement officials who support the bill. Click here for a high-resolution photo.
"Approximately one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder each year nationwide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health," said Blunt. "We've got a model that works to solve these important problems, and passing this bipartisan provision out of committee is an important step forward. Now is the time for Congress to act."
"Mental health issues touch every family in some way. Our bipartisan bill expands access and improves quality of care so people can get the treatment they need and live healthy, successful lives," said Stabenow. "We had a major victory last week, we've got tremendous momentum, and we're going to keep working hard until this bill gets done."
"It is critical that people come out and talk about mental illness to reduce the stigma surrounding those living with mental illness," said Close. "This legislation is so important in the effort to expand access to mental health services and improve the quality of treatment available. With reduced stigma and discrimination, and increased access to quality care, people living with mental illness can get the treatment they need."
Additional Background Information:
* Last Thursday, a version of the "Excellence in Mental Health Act," authored by Blunt and Stabenow, passed in the U.S. Senate Finance Committee as an amendment to the so-called "doc-fix' legislation (the SGR bill). The amendment will set up demonstration programs across the country to improve mental health care quality and expand access to mental health treatment.
* In February 2013, Blunt and Stabenow introduced the Excellence in Mental Health Act to help fix the fragmented mental health system by offering current Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) a chance to obtain the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic designation.
* The bill establishes criteria for certified community behavioral health clinics to ensure the providers cover a broad range of mental health services -- including 24-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. Certified clinics providing this care could then get reimbursed from the government the same way that traditional health centers can.
* In addition to Blunt and Stabenow, the Excellence in Mental Health Act is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators including U.S. Senators Mark Begich (Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Susan Collins (Maine), Chris Coons (Del.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).
* The Excellence in Mental Health Act is supported by more than 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.
Blunt has also co-sponsored a number of mental health bills in the Senate, including:
* The "Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013," which was introduced by U.S. Senators Mark Begich (Alaska) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H). The bill authorizes the launch of a demonstration program to support mental health first aid trainings nationwide to help more Americans identify, understand, and respond to the signs of mental illnesses and addiction disorders.
* The "Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act," which was introduced by U.S. Senators Al Franken (Minn.) and Mike Johanns (Neb.). The bipartisan bill would help make communities safer by improving access to mental health services for people in the criminal justice system who need treatment. The bill also focuses on giving law enforcement officers the tools they need to identify and respond to mental health issues, and includes a 5-year reauthorization of the "Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act" (MIOTCRA), continuing support for mental health courts, and crisis intervention teams.
* And the "Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013," which was introduced by U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and reauthorizes and improves programs related to awareness, prevention, and early identification of mental health conditions.