By Chris Adams
Ron Honberg, a policy advisor for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says lawmakers from both parties are working on mental health legislation, although the general stalemate in Washington make it unlikely anything will pass during the final months of the Obama administration.
During a presentation in late 2016, Honberg gave National Press Foundation fellows an overview of the key legislation in the works. His organization bills itself as the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization.
While it’s tough to get anything new funded by Washington today, Honberg did say that much mental health legislation tends to be bipartisan, without a clear red-blue divide.
A mental health reform bill passed the U.S. House easily (422-2) in July 2016, and a slightly different version has cleared a committee in the U.S. Senate. But there are two hitches: the bills authorize programs but not funding, and if they are not enacted in 2016 Congress will have to start over in 2017.
He went over list of non-controversial provisions of the bill: suicide prevention programs, strengthening the enforcement of parity mental health parity with physical health, improving integration of physical and mental health care, and others.
He also talked about the controversial aspects, including one that would require states to use court-ordered outpatient treatment of patients, a policy that has engendered sharp divisions in the advocacy community.