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Rubio and Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Mental Health Services

Feb 7, 2013 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and a bipartisan group of senators today introduced the Excellence in Mental Health Act to strengthen our nation’s mental health services.  The bill, introduced in the wake of the recent tragedy in Newtown, puts mental health centers on more equal footing with other health centers by improving quality standards and expanding access to ensure more people can get the mental health care they need.  The bill is sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), along with a bipartisan group of colleagues including Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rubio.

“America must approach the issue of mental illness with the care, attention and compassion that it deserves,” said Rubio. “Through recent acts of violence, we have seen the tragic cost that can come from untreated mental illnesses. The Excellence in Mental Health Act will save lives by addressing violence at its source and will ease the struggles of countless individuals and families dealing with mental illness.”

Studies show that individuals with a serious mental illness are actually more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator.  However, in the absence of timely diagnosis, early intervention and treatment, people experiencing first break psychosis are at risk of committing acts of violence—at a rate 15 times higher than those in treatment.

The Excellence in Mental Health Act establishes criteria for Federally Qualified Community Behavioral Health Centers to ensure the centers cover a broad range of mental health services – including 24-hour crisis care, increased integration of physical, mental and substance abuse treatment so they are treated simultaneously rather than separately, and expanded support for families of people living with mental health issues.

The legislation also expands access to America’s 2,000 Community Mental Health Centers by supporting the modernization of existing centers and the construction of new behavioral health centers. Community Mental Health Centers currently serve over 8 million people, including 2.2 million young people. With at least 25% of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan experiencing some type of mental health condition, Community Mental Health Centers are expected to soon be serving 200,000 veterans.

According to a national survey, one-third of the 4.8 million people suffering from mood disorders do not receive treatment, and fewer than half of the people with severe mental disorders receive treatment of any kind in a given year.  The current lack of access to quality care ultimately forces local law enforcement to respond to psychiatric emergencies and diverts officers from other duties. Expanded centers providing more services will be able to treat up to 1.5 million additional people as a result of this legislation.