Rep. Murphy Investigates Psychiatric Bed Shortage


Representative Tim Murphy, the only psychologist in the U.S. Congress, is continuing to keep pressure on the federal government to improve our mental health care system. This Wednesday, March 26th, the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Energy and Commerce committee, that Rep. Murphy co-chairs will hold an investigative hearing about the nation’s lack of psychiatric hospital beds.

Beginning at 10 a.m. in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the hearing is entitled: “Where have all the patients gone? Examining the Psychiatric Bed Shortage.”

I’ve seen an advance copy of the witnesses who will testify and they include three of my favorites: Judge Steven Liefman, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, and Gunter Stern, a fabulous advocate who works with Georgetown Miniseries in Washington D.C.  After my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness was published, I spent several weeks following Gunter through Georgetown where he helps the homeless, especially  individuals with mental illnesses and co-occurring addictions.

Rep. Murphy (R-Pa.) will be interviewed Wednesday before the hearing at 7:30 a.m. on C-Span and the entire hearing will be covered live on C-Span through streaming at

I’ve written before about how Rep. Murphy asked the federal General Accountability Office to investigate whether the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  is focusing enough of its resources on the seriously mentally ill. He also held hearings last March after the Newtown shootings when I testified about how difficult it had been to get my son help.

Rep. Murphy has been tirelessly pushing for passage of a bill that he drafted called the Mental Health Reform Act  that would significantly change how mental services are delivered in this country. His bill has stirred considerable controversy.

I have visited every state but Hawaii and Mississippi and the two most common complaints that I hear are : 1. a lack of sufficient crisis beds to help people stabilize and 2. a lack of affordable housing.  During a recent trip to Iowa, I was told that some individuals in the midst of a breakdown have to go to facilities outside the state because there are no beds locally. In Idaho, a patient can spend hours in the back of a police car being driven to a hospital. It is not uncommon in many states for patients to be held for more than 24 hours in emergency rooms because there is no where for them to go. This is outrageous.

The national media paid attention to the bed shortage problem late last year after Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds was attacked by his son, Gus, who later killed himself.  The senator had tried to get his son help but had been told that no local mental health beds were available. He later said the system had failed his son. 

This will be the first time in recent memory that Congress has looked into this national problem. I know I will be watching Wednesday’s hearings and hope that you will too.

Bravo to Rep. Murphy for continuing to be one of the lone voices in our government who is keeping a spotlight on our broken mental health care system. Whether you agree or disagree with his solutions, I’m thankful that he cares enough to keep a meaningful discussion going!

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.