Beaver County Times: House reform package includes Murphy's mental health bill, Rothfus' Medicare provision
A comprehensive health care and medical package that easily passed the U.S House on Wednesday included U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s provisions on mental health treatment reform and $1 billion in funding to combat the opioid crisis.
The 21st Century Cures Act, House Resolution 34, was approved 392-26 and now goes to the Senate. The legislation contains reforms sought for three years by Murphy, R-18, Upper St. Clair Township, under his Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act; $500 million in the next two budgets for hard-hit states to fight opioid abuse; allows for the Food and Drug Administration to approve new drugs and devices faster; and increases funding for research at the National Institute of Health.
Critics of the act, though, said it contained too many giveaways to pharmaceutical companies and did not do anything to control prescription drug prices.
Murphy, a psychologist who serves in the Navy Reserves, introduced his legislation three years ago in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting massacre and reports about the perpetrator’s mental health issues.
Among the provisions proposed by Murphy are the creation of an assistant secretary of mental health and substance use position in the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory, increasing funding for outpatient treatment programs, strengthening and expanding the mental health workforce, increasing access to treatment for women, children and adolescents, providing treatment for incarcerated individuals before they re-enter society and training for police to calm crisis situations with those who are mentally ill.
“For the last four years since the time of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary followed by repeated other ones our nation has been awoken from a slumber of ignoring problems of mental illness in America,” Murphy said during a House debate.
“We’ve changed the situation where now we are coming together on a bill that will save lives,” Murphy said. “This is a new era of health care, and the next generation of hope for Americans that really transcends boundaries.”
The act also included a provision from U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-12, Sewickley, to “restore the open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries,” who up until five years ago “had the ability to change Medicare Advantage plans one time during the first three months of the year,” according to a statement from his office.
“My provision is critical for seniors who discover that their Medicare plan doesn’t meet their needs. It gives them flexibility and restores the 90-day window to find a plan that works best for them,” Rothfus said.
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9, Bedford County, hailed the act’s passage for its bipartisanship, something rarely seen on Capitol Hill these days.
“This legislation is going to save lives and change the way we cure diseases, and it’s a prime example of what can be accomplished in Congress when we work together,” he said. “Our mental health system has failed far too many Americans, and these reforms are necessary to increase treatment options for those battling illnesses while also making it easier for families to help their loves ones get the help they need.”
Beyond the mental health reforms, Shuster also addressed the impact the legislation would have on combating the opioid epidemic and improving medical research into Lyme, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
“Our region has lost wonderful people to the opioid epidemic and I’m going to continue to do everything I can to ensure we are providing our communities with the tools needed to combat this growing crisis,” Shuster said.
“Another issue we can’t forget at home is the devastating effects Lyme disease is having on thousands in central and southwestern Pennsylvania. The Cures Act will not stop these problems for good, but it is another major step in stopping them in the future.”