On December 13, President Obama signed into law “A 21st Century Cures Act.” Both the House (392-26) and Senate (94-5) passed the bill by wide margins. As the year unfolds, we will see evidence of new programming and policies. Mental Health Advocates (MHA) has been instrumental in the evolution of this language. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) summarized the Act’s key points below. Among the important provisions, this reform package:
- Elevates the importance of addressing mental illness and substance use within the federal government and creates a Presidentially-appointed Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, establishes a chief medical officer, and makes reforms to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), including emphasis on science and evidence-based programs.
- Extends the federal Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) grant program, which greatly increases program funding authorization levels, authorizing AOT as an alternative to incarceration within Department of Justice programs.
- Establishes a grant program for Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) and directs Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to outline for states innovative opportunities to use Medicaid 1115 waivers to provide care for adults with serious mental illness.
- Requires clarification of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by directing the Health and Human Services Secretary to clarify circumstances under which a family member may receive protected health information about their loved ones with serious mental illness (SMI), requiring the Secretary to develop training and education to health care providers and compliance staff on these circumstances.
- Establishes the National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory to promote and disseminate evidence-based service delivery models and practices.
- Provides vital new tools for law enforcement, including: grants for crisis intervention teams (CIT), federal mental health courts, and the creation of a National Criminal Justice and Mental Health Training Center.
- Requires data collection on the role of mental illness in the criminal justice system including: government reporting on federal, state, and local costs of imprisonment for individuals with serious mental illness, including the number and types of crimes committed by mentally ill individuals. It also requires Attorney General data collection and dissemination regarding the involvement of mental illness in all homicides, as well as deaths or serious bodily injuries involving law enforcement officers.
- Establishes a federal adult suicide prevention program.
- Strengthens community response systems with a grant program to create databases on psychiatric beds, crisis stabilization units, and residential treatment facilities.
Editor’s note: This article was provided by Mental Health America of Dubuque County.