HB 3717 Considered Misguided by Many Advocates: It isn’t too late for your voice to count!

We thank policy advocate Martha Brock for contributing this article to NC CANSO!  We also thank her for submitting contact information for legislators.  Make your voice known NOW! 

Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced legislation) that, if passed, would exchange low-cost services that have good outcomes for higher-cost yet ineffective interventions, according to the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR), a coalition of 32 statewide organizations and others representing individuals with mental illnesses; the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), the non-profit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities; and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a national non-profit legal advocacy organization.

“This legislation would eliminate initiatives that promote recovery from serious mental illnesses through the use of evidence-based, voluntary, peer-run services and family supports,” said Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., a founder of the NCMHR and the ED of a mental health agency in Massachusetts. “These services have a proven track record in helping people stay out of the hospital and live successfully in the community. Because hospitalization is far more expensive and has far worse outcomes than these effective, and cost-efficient, community-based services, this bill would cost more money for worse outcomes.

“Even worse,” Dr. Fisher added, “the bill greatly promotes stigma and discrimination by its unfounded and damaging connection between mental illness and violence…”

The bill introduced by Rep. Murphy (R-PA) is co-sponsored by Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC2). It was introduced in December 2013. Given that many in the mainstream media are supporting the Murphy bill take time to read this article from USA Today by Wayne Lindstrom of MHA (Mental Health America) “Don’t link violence with mental illness” published January 10, 2014. 

Read the entire USA Today article here:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/01/10/mental-health-america-wayne-lindstrom/1566226/

Rep. Murphy’s bill is based on a false connection between mental illness and violence. Study after study shows that no such connection exists. In fact, individuals with mental illnesses are actually 11 times more likely to be victims of violence than the general public.

Rep. Murphy’s bill also attacks the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy programs, which, together with the Client Assistance Programs, are the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

Vicki Smith at Disability Rights NC  says under the current wording in the Murphy bill in Congress, 83% of the NC P&A’s funding for Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Mental Illness (better known by the acronym: PAIMI) would be cut from the federal SAMHSA budget.

Also, new restrictions on what kinds of advocacy DRNC could do in the community versus institutions would be added. It is imperative that North Carolina’s Congressional Delegation be made aware how this would impact persons with psychiatric disabilities.

Disability Rights NC has taken NC DHHS and local mental health agencies to court on behalf of many, many persons with psychiatric disabilities in the 6 years it has been around. They have provided legal representation for individuals, and when necessary, taken the legal action to the next level by going with class action lawsuits.

In my opinion, things would be even worse than they are for persons with disabilities in NC without the protection and advocacy this non-profit provides.  In NC the only time progress is made with services in the community has followed class action law suits, which no longer  would be allowed with PAIMI funding.  For more information contact Vicki at Vicki.Smith@disabilityrightsnc.org.

The title of Rep. Murphy’s bill is the “HELPING FAMILIES IN MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS ACT”and the number of the bill is HB 3717.   Call Sen. Kay Hagan and Sen. Richard Burr at their Washington, D. C. offices.  Contact your member of the U. S. House of Representatives.  If you do not know your member of the US House, go to www.House.gov and you will find the information based on your zip code and address.

Main Switchboard Number for Congress:

U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515

(202) 224-3121; TTY: (202)-225-1904        

Contacting Senators

By E-mail

All questions and comments regarding public policy issues, legislation, or requests for personal assistance should be directed to the Senators from your State. Some Senators have e-mail addresses while others post comment forms on their web sites. When sending e-mail to your Senator, please include your return postal mailing address. Please be aware that as a matter of professional courtesy, many Senators will acknowledge, but not respond to, a message from another Senator’s constituent.

By Postal Mail

You can direct postal correspondence to your Senator or to other U.S.Senate offices at the following address:

For correspondence to U.S. Senators:  address your letter to

Office of Senator (Name), United States Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510

Alternatively, you may phone the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

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