US Senate passes landmark mental health reform bill

US Senate passes landmark mental health reform bill

With an aim to improve mental health care for millions of Americans and to fight the opioid epidemic, the U.S. Senate passed an extensive $6.3 billion medical funding legislation in an overwhelming vote of 94-5 on December 7, 2016, sending it to the desk of President Barack Obama.

The passage of the bill was a remarkable bipartisan and bicameral gesture of unity by the Congress that has been otherwise profoundly split over political differences. Mental health advocates have described the new legislation as the most significant milestone in the mental health legislation since the 2008 law mandating equal insurance coverage for both mental as well as physical health.

“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,” Chris Murphy , the U.S. Senator from Connecticut who co-authored the Mental Health Reform Act, had said after the House of Representatives passed the legislation on November 30.

Murphy is one of the many mental health advocates in America who has always emphasized that mental health should be the cornerstone of public health. He worked with the Senator and physician Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, whose mental health bill was folded into the 21st Century Cures Act, aiming to alleviate the suffering of people battling serious mental disorders.

“Early intervention for psychosis” shall be one the focal points of the new legislation which is a combination of mental health proposals from several lawmakers, including the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act that had already passed the Senate health committee last year.

21st Century Cures Act to boost research and ease drug approvals

Despite objections raised by several liberal Democrats and consumer groups, the mandate in favor of the bill, better known as the 21st Century Cures Act, marks a final legislative victory for the outgoing president of the United States. “This bill will make a big difference, and I look forward to signing it as soon as it reaches my desk,” said President Obama in a recent statement.

Most senators view the 21st Century Cures Act as shift to a more classic approach to law enactment. Although, there may be policy wins as well as setbacks for both parties, the bill will cater to every American grappling with disease, substance addiction and mental health conditions in a significant manner.

The Act will play an important role in expediting the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) drug approval process and increasing the funding amount allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Additionally, separate funding for cancer research, opioid abuse prevention and treatment and upgradation of the existing mental health care system will also be included in the act.

According to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the new law includes an annual budget of $500 million to help states combat opioid misuse and procure better treatment facilities for people suffering from addiction. “These additional resources are particularly critical in rural areas, where rates of opioid misuse and overdose are high, access to treatment is limited, and patients who seek treatment are often met with waitlists that can mean the difference between life and death,” said Vilsack.

Fight against mental illnesses and substance use disorders

According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 43.6 million Americans aged 18 and above experienced some form of mental illness, whereas 20.2 million adults had a substance use disorder in a year prior to the survey. Needless to say, the new Act will certainly go a long way in fixing the nation’s broken mental health system by making it a national priority.

The journey to complete recovery from addiction is challenging and time-consuming. While some are able to gain complete sobriety due to timely medical help, most fail to refrain from addictive substances and tend to relapse. Sovereign Health provides holistic treatments for various mental health disorders, as well as any underlying health condition. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 954-0529 or chat online with our representatives to know about our mental health treatment centers in the U.S.

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