Representative Tim Murphy

Gov. Watchdog Details Stunning Failures Of Mental Health System in Blistering New Report

* * O&I Hearing Set for 2/11 * *

Nonpartisan GAO: "Interagency coordination for programs supporting individuals with serious mental illness is lacking." 

For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 5, 2014
Contact: Murphy Press, 202.225.2301 

WASHINGTON, DC - The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today released a stunning new report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office entitled, "Mental Health: HHS Leadership Needed to Coordinate Federal Efforts Related to Serious Mental Illness." The government watchdog's report highlights that, despite over 110 distinct programs across eight federal agencies identified and billions of dollars committed annually to them, the federal mental health system has serious shortfalls in getting individuals with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and chronic depression much needed treatment and services. 

The report makes specific criticism of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is statutorily directed by Congress to both coordinate federal mental health programs and serve as the lead public health agency for those individuals with mental illness.

GAO stated, "Although SAMHSA  is charged with promoting coordination across the federal government regarding mental illness, its efforts to lead coordination – specifically on serious mental illness – across agencies have been lacking." 

"This GAO report is a much-needed wake-up call. The federal government's approach to addressing mental illness is a convoluted and disjointed mess," said Murphy, who is also a clinical psychologist treating soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury as a member of the Navy Reserve Medical Service Corps. "Shame on us if we don't take action and work on fixing the system-wide failures identified in this report so that we can focus resources on helping those in desperate need of medical services for treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and chronic depression."

Murphy announced that his Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing on Wednesday, February 11 at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building to review the report. The hearing is entitled, "Federal Efforts on Mental Health: Why Greater HHS Leadership is Needed."

In its review, GAO "identified 112 federal programs that generally supported individuals with serious mental illness in fiscal year 2013. The majority of these programs addressed broad issues, such as homelessness, that can include individuals with serious mental illness. The programs were spread across eight federal agencies ... Agencies had difficulty identifying all programs supporting individuals with serious mental illness because they did not always track whether or not such individuals were among those served by the program. Agencies also varied in which programs they identified because they had different definitions of what such a program might be. Such inconsistency limits the potential comparability across programs."

In 2013 and 2014, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations conducted a thorough review of the federal mental health systems, releasing a report on its findings in May 2014. To address the shortfalls in treatment of severe mental illness, Murphy introduced the bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act in December 2013. Two major portions of that bill were signed into law in the 113th Congress. Murphy is currently preparing to reintroduce the legislation of his bill in this new Congress. 

The Majority Memorandum, a witness list, and witness testimony will be available here as they are posted.                                                                       

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Background on the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act:
Dr. Murphy authored the bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act following a year-long investigation into the nation's broken mental health system. Nationwide support for his legislation to grow from newspaper editors, physicians, and parents of children with mental illness. The legislation includes provisions to increase hospital beds and proper care while decreasing criminalization for people with serious types of mental illness; reform the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to increase family access to information and eliminate barriers to communication between families and providers; permit federal Medicaid dollars to be used to pay for acute inpatient psychiatric treatment by creating an exception to the current Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion in Medicaid; expand effective Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) services; increase funding to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); re-appropriate the budget of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to increase support for programs designed to help those with the most severe cases of mental illness.

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