Another Voice: Walden announces support for ‘Families in Mental Crisis’ Act

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) this week announced that he supports a major mental health reform bill moving through the U.S. House of Representatives. The Helping Families in Mental Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) aims to reform the nation’s mental healthcare system to deliver better treatment to patients and families before they commit acts of violence against themselves or others.

“Too many families all over America struggle with mental illness. And too many of these suffers go on to hurt themselves or others — most tragically in Roseburg earlier this month,” Walden said. “However, despite the $130 billion the federal government spends annually on mental health treatment, an astounding 40 percent of Americans with a serious mental illness are not receiving treatment. This broken system has to change.

“The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act would reform the nation’s federal mental health programs, helping to direct resources and care to the patients and families who need them most,” he continued. “I am proud to support this bipartisan bill. Together, we can work to make sure that the millions of Americans suffering from mental illness, and their families, get the care they need before the worst occurs.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, patients with mental illness receiving treatment are 15 times less likely to commit violent acts than those who go untreated. The federal government spends $130 billion per year on mental health, yet the rates of violence, suicide, homelessness, and incarceration among the mentally ill have increased over the past two decades.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act reforms the federal government’s mental health bureaucracy to break down barriers to care. It allows families to better work with health care professionals to care for loved ones, and helps fix the shortage of psychiatric hospital beds in this country. The bill also advances tele-psychiatry to help mentally ill patients in rural areas.

The author of the legislation, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), is a licensed psychologist. He praised Walden’s support. “Congressman Walden has been a leader working with me to reform our broken mental health system to deliver treatment before tragedy,” said Murphy. “We are committed to take meaningful action for the families forever changed by that tragic day in Roseburg. I thank him for signing on to my crisis mental health legislation and look forward to working together as we advance the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act through Congress to the President’s desk.”

Walden has been a long-time, strong supporter of mental health programs, especially for young people. He has worked closely with Oregon Partnership/Lines for Life on preventing youth suicide and substance abuse. And he worked across the aisle to pass the nation’s first youth suicide prevention bill into law, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (named in memory of the son of former Oregon Senator Gordon Smith). This legislation includes a multi-year reauthorization of the Garrett Lee Smith law.

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