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Senate Next to Take Up Mental Health Legislation

One in five Americans is living with a mental health condition but less than half are seeking help. (
One in five Americans is living with a mental health condition but less than half are seeking help. (
July 12, 2016

BALTIMORE – One in five adults lives with a mental health condition, and only 4 in 10 actually received services in the past year.

Advocates hope that last week's passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of HR 2646 (Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016) will help with those numbers.

The legislation promotes early intervention, combats suicide in schools and local communities, and provides funding for crisis-response training.

Caitlin Mulrine, director of philanthropy and advocacy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Baltimore, says often those who are trying to help don't know how to.

"Increasingly, our police are being called to respond to psychiatric crises, and we need them to be able to appropriately respond to those situations and be able to connect those individuals with the treatment resources that they need as opposed to jail or criminal justice responses," she states.

The Senate will soon take up its version of the legislation, which is called the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016.

Mulrine says another part of the bill addresses insurers who aren't complying with the law.

"It's very important that people be able to access timely treatment for their mental health conditions, just as they would if they had a physical illness like diabetes, a heart condition, anything like that,” she stresses. “It needs to be covered equally by health insurance companies."

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says serious mental illnesses costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year, and people living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.

Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely because of treatable medical conditions.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD