Bill that would improve mental health care clears House as amendment

The House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation on Thursday that would expand access to community mental health services and enhance the quality of care for individuals living with mental illness.

Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) championed the Excellence in Mental Health Act in the Senate. Reps. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) have led efforts to get the measure approved in the House.

“The House took an important step forward by passing this bipartisan proposal, which Sen. Stabenow and I have long championed in the Senate,” Blunt said. “Approximately one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder each year across America. We’ve got a model that works, and now is the time for the Senate to act.”

A version of the measure was included as an amendment to a House bill that would reform Medicare’s sustainable growth rate. The amendment would establish pilot programs in eight states to increase access to community mental health centers.

The measure aims to address the nation’s fragmented mental health system by providing community mental health centers an opportunity to earn the certified community behavioral health clinic designation.

The bill would establish criteria for certified community behavioral health clinics to ensure 24-hour crisis care is provided, along with integrated care for physical, mental and substance abuse treatment.