Senators & House Members Bask In Spotlight Today After Moving Mental Health Bill Forward

Texas Sen. John Cornyn will not help push mental health bill through Senate and onto White House

Texas Sen. John Cornyn will not help push mental health bill through Senate and onto White House.

(12-1-16) Here’s what several of the key players shepherding Rep. Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act through Congress had to say last night after the legislation — now part of the $6.3 billion 21st Century Cures Act — was passed in the House. The Cures Act is expected to be voted on quickly in the Senate and then sent to the president for signing into law. Murphy’s act is the first major reform of the government’s mental health programs in decades.

Representative Tim Murphy  (R-Pa.): 

For the last four years since the time of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary followed by repeated other ones our nation has been awoken from a slumber of ignoring problems of mental illness in America. One that when we closed down our institutions decades ago we turned our eye to those who lie homeless in the street or we filled our prisons or our cemeteries or laid on a gurney in the emergency room or sent back to a family that felt helpless and hopeless.

We’ve changed the situation where now we are coming together on a bill that will save lives. This is a new era of healthcare, and the next generation of hope for Americans that really transcends boundaries.

To all the families who brought their stories out of the shadows that dared to share their sorrows their hopes and to share their dreams, today is a day of joy and today is only possible, I say to all those families, because they dared to step forward.

…We can look back on this moment in history and say today though we have much to do, and although we didn’t get everything we needed but we needed everything we did get. But this is a moment on this day forward to say that today we took action to save lives.

Senator John Cornyn (R-Tx.):

(Cornyn’s Mental Health and Safe Communities Act also was merged with Murphy’s bill into the 21st Century Cures Act. He has played a pivotal role as Senate Majority Whip getting the legislation voted on during the lame duck session.)

“I dare say there’s probably not a family in America that doesn’t have to deal with this in some way or another, either at work, people you go to church with, people who live next door. Some way or another, mental health problems are rampant.”

“We are warehousing people in jails and other places and not giving them the treatment they need in order to get their basic underlying problem taken care of.”

“So what this legislation does is provides a pathway to treatment, primarily by using preexisting appropriations to make grants to our states and local communities so they can deal with these using the very best practices in the country.”

“Doesn’t it make sense to prioritize dealing with this, these mental health problems, and particularly with the best practices in places like San Antonio, Texas, where the mental health community and law enforcement and other leaders have come together to try to come up with a program to divert people with mental illness to treatment and to provide additional training to law enforcement to deescalate some of the conflicts that occur?”

“It’s really important that we deal with this in a sensible way, and this legislation helps to do that.”

“This also, Mr. President, provides families additional tools.”

“One of the things this legislation does is provide an additional procedure called Assisted Outpatient Treatment, which gives local courts, civil courts, the authority to consider a petition.”

“It provides family members another tool when their loved ones become mentally ill and when there are no good options for the family members to assure that they’ll get the treatment or remain compliant with their doctor’s orders by taking their medication. So I applaud the House for taking up these critical reforms.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.):

(Sen. Murphy introduced the Senate version of Murphy’s bill along with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.))

“I’d heard too many devastating stories of people struggling with serious mental illness and addiction whose lives were forever changed because they couldn’t get the care they need. I’d seen up close the heartbreak and frustration that families suffered trying to find care for a loved one – care that seemed impossible to find and even harder to pay for. That’s why I worked with Republicans and Democrats on the Mental Health Reform Act. 

“With today’s House passage of the bill, Congress is closer than ever to passing mental health reform and making a real difference in millions of people’s lives. I’ll be working hard to get the bill over the finish line in the Senate so President Obama can sign it into law before he leaves office.”

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

“We now have the opportunity to help the millions of Americans who have been denied access to care by our broken mental health system. This legislation provides hope to the families of those affected by mental illness.”

Senator Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.)

(As Chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), Alexander championed the Senate version of Murphy’s bill, making it a priority.)

“The real winners today are American families whose lives stand to be improved by the Cures legislation passed overwhelmingly today by the House and that we should pass by a wide margin in the Senate.

Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.)

(Rep. Upton, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, negotiated a compromise version of Murphy’s bill that enabled it to move out of his committee and assured bi-partisan House support. He also was the primary sponsor of the 21st Century Cures Act.)

21st Century Cures is the innovation game-changer that patients, their loved ones, and the nation’s researchers and scientists so desperately need. The White House has expressed its enthusiastic endorsement of this critical legislation. So it’s now on to the Senate, where we are just one final vote away.

Representative Diana DeGette (D-Co.) 

(DeGette was Murphy’s Democrat counterpart on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who often represented Murphy’s critics and those unhappy with the bill, negotiating compromise language.)

I’m humbled and extremely pleased that we are one big step closer to saving millions of lives. The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote.”


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.