The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has concerns over the rhetoric used when discussing mental health in a proposed set of reforms known as the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015, or “the Murphy bill,” named for sponsor Chris Murphy (D-CT).
“Would the Murphy bill, if passed, solve all the problems in the mental health system?” Ron Honberg, NAMI’s director of policy and legal affairs, told Patient Daily. “No, I don’t think so. But would it be a step in the right direction? Yes, I do think so.”
However, Honberg said the Murphy bill is plagued with misinformation and political posturing that has contributed to the legislation grinding to a halt. Rhetoric surrounding the bill includes a misconception that the bill would bring back the long-term institutionalization because it would allow Medicaid to be billed for inpatient psychiatric treatment for up to 20 days, according to Honberg.
Issues like these prevent the very real and needed reforms in the Murphy bill from proceeding, Honberg argues. Provisions NAMI considers historic -- such as the ability to bill Medicaid both for physical and psychiatric treatment in the same day and other provisions to facilitate integration of services -- are being discussed far less due to the more dramatic misconceptions and distorted rhetoric continuing to impede progress on the bill.
Without the dramatic rhetoric about mental illness following national tragedies, Honberg wonders if anyone would be discussing mental health at all.
“That’s the sad reality,” he said. “Members of Congress weren’t talking about reform before Sandy Hook.”
While NAMI does understand a need to address concerns about mental health and violence, the organization finds it important to widen the scope of the conversation from only addressing national tragedies and guns to understanding the everyday consequences caused by insufficient treatment -- ranging from incarceration to mental health crises.
It is bad for the country to have an inadequate mental health care system, according to NAMI.
“The brain is part of the body,” Honberg told Patient Daily. “There’s no reason why we would treat mental health care any differently than we treat physical health care, but for a number of reasons, including stigma, we do. That’s the conversation we should be having -- not using mental illness as a political football between those who are opposed to gun reform and those who support gun reform.”
The continued support of the Murphy bill, and fighting the misinformation around it, will be one of NAMI's many priorities in 2016.
“Having said that, we try to seize on every opportunity we can to focus more attention on mental health,” Honberg said. “We’re not going to run away from the issue, we just would like to broaden the conversation.”