Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 30, 2015

Posts in "Mental Health"

January 27, 2015

Boehner Plot Puts Mental Health Back in Spotlight

The recent indictment of a former Ohio country club bartender for allegedly threatening to shoot or poison House Speaker John A. Boehner is one more example that Rep. Tim Murphy uses to buttress his legislation for more aggressive mental health treatment.

The bartender, Michael R. Hoyt, had a history of mental problems; country club members told the Dayton Daily News that Hoyt’s demeanor had changed since he suffered a concussion when he was mugged two years ago, and the club fired him last fall.

Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican and a psychologist, not only wants to improve mental health treatment, he wants to allow the government to treat more people with serious mental illness without their permission — the most controversial of his prescriptions.

He introduced his bill in December 2013, a year after the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut put a renewed focus on mental illness.

Murphy, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, has had a steady stream of incidents to help him make his case.

After the Defense Department released a report last March on the September 2013 Navy Yard shooting in which 12 victims died, Murphy said the report “missed the point” by focusing on the security clearance process.

“We can take a gun out of the shooter’s hand, we can keep them out of a secured area, but until the individual displaying psychosis is referred and placed into acute psychiatric treatment, these tragedies will continue,” Murphy said.

Two months later, after six victims died in Isla Vista, Calif., in a near-campus shooting, Murphy said he was heartbroken for the victims and their families but also angered “because once again, our mental health system has failed and more families have been destroyed because Washington hasn’t had the courage to fix it.”

He plans to introduce a revised version of his bill in this Congress.

January 22, 2015

Veterans’ Mental Health Bill Quickly Advances

A veterans’ mental health bill is racing to become one of the early measures signed into law this year. After failing to gain approval in the Senate last year, the bill (HR 203) bolstering military and veterans mental health programs sped through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is headed toward quick Senate approval.

The measure focuses on Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department suicide prevention programs and seeks a third-party annual review of programs and promotes collaboration between the VA and non-profit mental health organizations to stem the epidemic of veteran suicides.

The bill named for Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and committed suicide in 2011 at age 28, faltered in the waning hours of the last Congress when then-Sen. Tom Coburn objected to a unanimous consent request to pass the bill. Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, objected that the bill would cost too much money and would duplicate existing services. The Senate committee chairman noted on Wednesday that the bill explicitly prohibits the authorization of new funds to implement the programs.


By Paul Jenks Posted at 10:01 a.m.
Mental Health

November 13, 2014

NIH Forges a Mental Health Research Plan

The National Institute of Mental Health, a component of the National Institutes of Health and the primary federal research agency for mental health has decided to update its strategic plan. The last plan was formulated in 2008 and the institute has decided that there has been substantial advances in mental health care since then and a new plan is in order. The public can comment on the new draft, which sets research priorities for the next five years.

An interesting admission in the preamble of the report acknowledges that scientific advances often do not happen as the result of a plan, but the draft road map hopes to identify priority research projects.  NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel noted:

We know that some scientists reject the concept of “directed science,” believing that science rarely follows a plan. True, important discoveries often result from serendipity or side roads rather than a pre-meditated, carefully articulated strategy. On the other hand, these “eureka moments” come to those working on tough problems. A strategic plan can identify the most important problems and identify areas of traction. And for our science to affect policy or practice, a plan may be essential; the right plan serves both scientific discovery and public health needs.


By Paul Jenks Posted at 2:42 p.m.
Mental Health

September 8, 2014

Report Documents Scope of Drug Abuse and Mental Illness

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration last week released details on the scope of substance abuse and mental illness in the United States. The report notes that in 2013, 9.4 percent or 24.6 million persons over the age of 12 were illicit drug users, with marijuana use leading the tally with 19.8 current users. The agency estimated 4.5 million prescription pain drug abusers, 1.5 million cocaine and 595,000 methamphetamine users. A larger number of Americans – nearly 1 in 5 – had a mental illness in 2013 and 34.6 million sought mental health treatment and counseling. The tally of Americans suffering a serious mental illness, defined as interfering with major life activities, is estimated at 10 million (or 4.2 percent of the adult population).

Congressional action on drug abuse is complicated by several states legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Several other legislative efforts are pending to ramp up funding for programs to combat the abuse of prescription painkillers. HealthBeat’s Kerry Young reported in July that funding to aid state prescription monitoring programs could be included in this month’s temporary stopgap spending bill. Recent major mental health initiatives normally have been paired with other measures. The 2010 Affordable Care Act included mental health components and the 2008 financial services industry emergency bailout became law through a bill requiring insurance coverage parity for mental health services.

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July 21, 2014

New Bills: Contraceptive Services and Breast Cancer Detection

Last week’s Senate vote on a measure intended to roll back the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision prompted new legislation seeking to secure access to contraceptive services from New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, plus a bill offered by Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin that would confirm recently announced Obama administration guidance on employee notification of omitted contraception coverage.

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July 17, 2014

Final Medicare Payment Rules Loom

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has sent the White House the final payment rule proposals for fiscal 2015 Medicare provider payments for skilled nursing, psychiatric and inpatient rehabilitation facilities.

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War Is Hell, the 2014 Version

Beyond the well-reported traumatic brain injuries and loss of limbs, this generation of war veterans is facing other conditions that reflect the way the fighting has occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan. Skin cancer, epilepsy, sleep disorders, hydrocephalus and chronic pain disorders are some of the afflictions noted by a Senate report.

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July 9, 2014

Autism Measure Waits for Final Senate Nod


While Congress is facing seemingly intractable differences on health care agency spending bills and wrestles with veterans’ health bill offsets, an autism research and education program reauthorization bill is ready for final action in the Senate.

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