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House Roll Call: 355     Vote Date: Jul 6th, 2016

Issue: H.R. 2646 Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016. Question: On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass (2/3 vote required).

Result: Passed in House, 422 to 2, 9 not voting. GOP and Democrats scored.

Note: During the lame duck session, the House included this measure as part of the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34, Roll Call 592, 11-30-16), which was subsequently passed by the Senate (Vote 157, 12-7-16), signed by the President, and became Public Law 114-255!

Freedom First Society: H.R. 2646 accepts and reinforces subversive, unconstitutional federal overreach. “The Federal Government has 112 programs to address mental illness.” — Kevin McCarthy, R-California.

The federal government has no constitutional authority to manage America’s “Health Care System,” let alone a “Mental Health Care System.” 

The so-called debates over this measure read like George Orwell’s 1984!   Please see below. 

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

From the Congressional Research Service Summary:

  • This bill creates the position of Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders to take over the responsibilities of the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Mental health programs are extended and training regarding mental health is expanded. [Emphasis added.]
  • SAMHSA must establish the National Mental Health Policy Laboratory and the Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee. [Emphasis added.]
  • This bill amends the Public Health Service Act to require the National Institute of Mental Health to translate evidence-based interventions and the best available science into systems of care.
  • Certain mental health care professional volunteers are provided liability protection.
  • Pediatric mental health subspecialists are eligible for National Health Service Corps programs.
  • An underserved population of children or a site for training in child psychiatry can be designated as a health professional shortage area.[Emphasis added.] 

Analysis: Perhaps, the best way to help Americans realize how far Congress has drifted from the wise federalism devised by America’s founding fathers is to acquaint them with what our supposed representatives are actually supporting.

Accordingly, we include here some admissions against interest by the supporters of the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” during their self-congratulating statements, masquerading as a “debate.”

From the Congressional Record (7/6/16):

Opening remarks by the bill’s sponsor (Tim Murphy, R-Pennsylvania):

“Mr. Speaker, our mental health system in this country is a failure.

“This is one of those times where we are not gathered for a moment of silence, but a time of action. We are here finally to speak up for the last, the lost, the least, and the lonely, that is those who suffer from mental illness which is untreated.

“Mental illness affects one in five Americans. [FFS: Please forgive us, but we can’t help wondering how many that makes in Congress.] About 10 million Americans have serious mental illness. About 4 million of those go without any treatment. There are 100,000 new cases each year. Half of psychosis cases emerge by age 14, 75 percent by age 24. We have a need for 30,000 child psychiatrists. We only have 9,000. We have great shortages of psychologists.

“The time between the emergence of the first symptoms of serious mental illness and the first appointment is about 80 weeks. We need about 100,000 hospital beds in this country, but we only have 40,000 for psychiatric crises. A person is 10 times more likely, therefore, to be in jail than in a hospital if they are mentally ill.

“And these statistics, too: 43,000 suicides last year, 47,000 drug overdose deaths, 1,000 homicides, 250 mentally ill violently killed in a police encounter where they attacked a policeman. We have hundreds of thousands of homeless and mentally ill who die the slow-motion death of chronic illness, and that comes to more than the number who die of breast cancer, perhaps 350,000 or more a year.”

[FFS: Mr. Murphy outlines a horrific problem in our society, but he and other supporters of this bill give no indication as to how this problem, if they are anywhere near correct, came about. Is this plague only affecting Americans? Is it natural to all societies or just a modern phenomenon? Certainly, an accurate diagnosis of the cause is an essential first step in developing a cure.

And please excuse us again for suspecting that part of the cause is a failure to observe George Washington’s admonition in his Farewell Address:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Furthermore, the whole agenda here smells of a federal power grab driven by the revolutionary fervor of social engineers and acquiesced in by the politician eager to promise that government programs can fix almost anything.]

Mr. Murphy continues:

“The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, a bipartisan bill with over 205 cosponsors, which came out of the Committee on Energy and Commerce with a unanimous vote, fixes this.”

[FFS: Wow! What a claim! Ostensibly prior federal Mental Health Care programs were ineffective. (Incredibly, we are told there are 112 such programs — see next.) Why should we now have confidence that Washington will finally get it right? Perhaps, Washington is guided by a dangerous view of the federal bureaucracy’s responsibility for managing society.]

Remarks by Kevin McCarthy, R-California:

“The House will soon vote to pass Mr. Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act under suspension. Though this bill is the most significant reform to our Nation’s mental health program in decades, it has such a breadth of bipartisan support that we know it will pass with far more than a majority of votes in this House….

“You see, each year, the Federal Government has responded with money–$130 billion to be exact. But we cannot and should never conflate the amount we spend with the effectiveness of the spending.

“The Federal Government has 112 programs to address mental illness. But coordination is limited and gaps are common. Children with mental health disorders can’t get psychiatrists. Criminal facilities are commonly used to house mental health patients. Funding isn’t going to support evidence-based breakthroughs that improve people’s lives.

“We need simplification, coordination, and effectiveness. We need reforms that help those who suffer from mental illness while also making our Nation safer.

“This bill is thorough and will deliver. From top to bottom it will improve our fragmented mental health systems, giving new hope to those too often forgotten and support to those truly in need.”

Opening remarks of Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, controlling the Democrat portion of the debate:

“Today’s mental health system can hardly be described as a system at all….

“I am proud that H.R. 2646 now includes several policies championed by Democrats.

“The bill requires that States provide the full range of early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment–EPSDT–services to children in the Medicaid program who receive inpatient psychiatric care at so-called institutions of mental disease. “It creates a new assertive community treatment grant program and a peer professional workforce grant program….

“A great deal of work went into crafting this agreement….

“That said, the bill before us today is not transformative reform nor is it a panacea to the many problems now facing our mental health system. I encourage my colleagues to see this legislation as a necessary step rather than a solution, and I want to be very clear on this point. If we are truly serious about fixing our broken mental health system, we have to expand access and make sustained investment, and that means we must work to encourage all States to expand Medicaid and provide more Federal resources to support the growth of community-based prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

“This legislation is not comprehensive. It by no means contains enough funding to make the mental health system whole. I hope that, in the near future, we can work together again on additional legislation to increase treatment options and further strengthen mental health parity enforcement.” [Emphasis added.]

[FFS: What, you may ask, is mental health parity? This is an ongoing campaign by the federal government to force health insurance companies to supply benefits for the treatment of mental illness similar to those for other physical diseases, etc. In short, the federal government has become an advocate for the efficacy of psychiatric treatment.]

Remarks of Leonard Lance, R-New Jersey:

“This bill includes provisions I have championed to help provide early detection of eating disorders and improve access to treatment coverage. This is an historic achievement, as it marks the first time Congress has addressed eating disorders specifically through legislation.”

Remarks of Joe Pitts, R-Pennsylvania:

“[Congressman Murphy’s] bill will increase accountability so that we can better understand how Federal mental health and substance abuse treatment funds are used in each State.”  [Emphasis added.]

Remarks of Jim McDermott, D-Washington:

“[I]f the Federal Government doesn’t put money into this program that we are outlining in this very carefully constructed bill, we will be sending out a blank check. There will be nothing. It won’t be worth anything. To think that State legislatures or somebody is going to find the money somewhere is simply not real.”

[FFS: Mr. McDermott points to a fundamental problem that few discuss — why the Federal government has deep pockets, putting it in the driver’s set, and the State governments do not. Of course, the answer is the Federal Reserve System that can debauch our money by creating it out of nothing and the Federal Income Tax. The Federal Government is a huge drain on taxpayer money. With its unlimited monstrous appetite, the Federal government is killing our economy and chasing growth overseas. What kind of health care system could America, as a third world country provide?]

Remarks of Diana DeGette, D-Colorado:

“The last thing I want to say is, action on mental health legislation does not excuse inaction on gun violence prevention legislation. We must do something as well as passing comprehensive mental health legislation to respond to the gun violence epidemic.”

Remarks of Rick Allen, R-Georgia:

“Sadly, one in five children ages 13 to 18 have or will battle a mental illness.

“As a proud member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, I had the privilege of visiting schools across Georgia’s 12th Congressional District and visiting with educators and staff members. School leaders from elementary school to college all say that mental health is one of their top concerns for the students.”

Remarks of Mrs. Mimi Walters, R-California:

“Across this country, our mental health system is broken. Nearly 10 million Americans suffer from serious mental illness, and for far too many of those individuals the Federal Government stands between them and the care that they so desperately need.

“The laws on the books are complicated and outdated, but with this legislation, we have the opportunity to reform our national mental health system.”