Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association Opposes Federal Expansion of Involuntary Treatment of Mental Illness, Dismantling of Important SAMHSA Programs Proposed in "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act"

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Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association Opposes Federal Expansion of Involuntary Treatment of Mental Illness, Dismantling of Important SAMHSA Programs Proposed in "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act"

PRA seeks to work with Rep. Murphy to amend proposed legislation to protect, not further harm, those living with persistent behavioral mental health issues.

(McLean, VA, December 17, 2013) – As the leading organization focused on growing and training the recovery workforce, the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (PRA) expresses serious concerns with the recently introduced “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013” sponsored by Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA). While we appreciate that Representative Murphy seeks to stand with families facing mental health crisis, we are concerned that some of the approaches taken in this proposed legislation do more to harm than help individuals and families seeking a pathway to recovery.

PRA strongly opposes the broad expansion of involuntary treatment proposed in the Act. PRA members work each and every day with men, women, and children facing severe and persistent mental illness. We work collaboratively within our communities to build bridges that enable our consumers to live more productive lives - connecting individuals and families with physical health services, housing, education, and job training, while addressing the behavioral and mental health issues that are recurrent in their lives. PRA believes that involuntary treatment is a last resort, used only when it is clear that an individual is a danger to themselves or others. Recovery is possible when the individual in treatment acts in partnership with the rehabilitation workforce and strengthens integration into their community; coercion is not an incentive to recover and all too frequently may be implemented where other treatment and community support options could achieve a better result. Along those lines, we urge policymakers to work with PRA to more fully understand how this profession provides, on a daily basis, the kind of treatment that brings individuals through rehabilitation into a recovery that they own and continue with, and how this is a far more effective way than coercively confining and “treating” individuals against their will.

PRA is also concerned that the proposed legislation unravels key programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), including those that facilitate consumer participation in the behavioral health system and the Protection and Advocacy Programs for Individuals with Mental Illness. At PRA, we have found tremendous power and value in drawing consumers into our recovery workforce and we believe that consumers and those with lived experience play an important role in developing pathways to recovery for others.

Finally, PRA is concerned that the proposed changes to HIPAA privacy laws, while theoretically targeted at facilitating the sharing of information with parents and caregivers, may not always be in the best interest of the patient. Consumers of mental health services, just as those of physical health services, should have the option to determine with whom they share and do not share their personally identifiable health information. Living with a mental health condition should not mean having fewer rights to privacy of health information than living with any other acute or chronic health condition.

In 2010, PRA awarded Representative Murphy the PRA Congressional Award in recognition of his work in Congress on issues of importance to the psychiatric rehabilitation community. This commitment is evidenced in the proposed legislation as it draws provisions from important mental health proposals including the "Excellence in Mental Health Act" (S. 264/H.R. 1263) and the "Behavioral Health IT Act" (S. 1517, S.1685/H.R. 2957), legislation supported by PRA.

PRA believes that Representative Murphy’s legislation is well intentioned, but is in need of amendment before it should move forward to better help the families and individuals in mental health crisis claimed by its legislative title. PRA stands ready to work with Rep. Murphy and his congressional colleagues to make important changes to this legislation to help more people and families find their road to recovery.