Statement of Patrick J. Kennedy on Congressional Action on HR 2646, “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”

I’m tired of hearing a debate about which party is more bipartisan. The mother whose son needs treatment does not care which member of Congress has his or her name on a reform bill. She just wants access to affordable, comprehensive services and supports for her child.

This markup was needed. We had to get all the ideas out on the table. I thank my former Democratic colleagues for bringing important language that is critical to fortify parity, expand community based services, combat the opioid crisis, and build a strong SAMHSA. And I thank Mr. Murphy for introducing a bill that addresses important issues of access, including finally addressing the IMD exclusion, furthering integration, and accelerating early intervention programs.

We now must move forward the best ideas from both parties.

I’m particularly disgusted that the Republicans rejected needed and overdue amendments to strengthen parity implementation and enforcement.

The Parity Law, which many of the Republicans and Democrats on the committee voted for, is the key to ensuring Americans have access to a full range of treatment and services- from primary to tertiary care. Without parity, many of the goals of reform cannot be realized because you can’t have mental health care if it isn’t paid for.

Congress must ensure insurance companies disclose how they make medical-management decisions for approving, refusing or prematurely ending treatment for mental health and addiction and medical and surgical care.

They must require federal agencies to conduct random audits to see if insurance companies are complying with the Parity Law.

Without question, they should require the Department of Labor to audit any plan that generates multiple complaints from consumers or providers about that same type or types of parity violations.

And they should issue a due date for CMS to extend parity to Medicaid and CHIP. It has been 7 years. Time is up.

I don’t care which vehicle we use for mental health reform and strengthening parity. I am not partial to any title or bill number. It is not my concern which party gets the best headline.

I belong to the party of mental health reform. And we are accepting new members.

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“We stand on the doorstep to make momentous progress in advancing the cause of this new civil rights struggle started by the work of President Kennedy over 50 years ago.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy