Washington — Mental-health issues would get more attention from the federal government and the mentally ill would gain greater access to treatment under a bipartisan bill outlined Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., the lead sponsor of the legislation.
“It is our hope that these improvements will mean better and more successful care to help prevent unnecessary suffering and tragic consequences,” Cassidy, a Baton Rouge physician, said at a news conference on the proposal. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., appeared with Cassidy as the principal co-sponsor of the bill; both serve on the Senate Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
The Mental Health Reform Act would establish the position of assistant secretary for mental health and substance use within the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services, elevating the profile of the issue. The assistant secretary would oversee grant programs and promote high-quality approaches to treatment.
The bill also would award grants to states to improve integration of physical and mental health programs. It would provide for grants to encourage early intervention in addressing the needs of patients with mental illness. And it would seek to remove barriers to sharing useful information about treatment with family members and others.
Cassidy did not identify a funding source for the bill, although he said the costs would be low and likely more than offset by reducing the impact of mental illness on society.
A similar measure was introduced in the House in June.