Last Thursday I attended the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health hearing on the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717), sponsored by Congressman Tim Murphy. I have to admit disappointment that some of the expert witnesses had not read the entire bill themselves. Take note Network faithful - if you are going to present before elected officials you need to be able to answer "yes" if you are asked the question "Have you read the entire bill?" Regardless of how cogent your points are or how many crackerjack support staff you bring with you, I can tell you as one who was sitting between two reporters when that particular question was asked; credibility takes a hit when the response to a question like that is "No, I have not."
The hearing, which is available for viewing here, underscored how much work lies ahead in educating Congress about the exciting approaches to meeting the needs of individuals with mental health challenges that have taken place over the past 30 years as a result of the family and youth movement, as well as the important work being done in brain research and specific evidence-based practices for the seriously mentally ill.
At one point during the hearing, Congressman Tim Murphy stated that one of the goals of this hearing was to get ideas about how to improve the wording of the bill and that he welcomed input. Okay Network faithful, no way we are going to pass on that entrée.
After the hearing I requested and was granted a meeting with Brad Grantz, Legislative Director for Congressman Tim Murphy. We met at 5:00 pm that evening and had a spirited and respectful discussion of some of the main challenges in the bill from the perspective of the Children's Mental Health Network. I told Mr. Grantz that we wanted to be helpful to the process of addressing the bill during the continuing discussion while it is in Committee. I am most grateful that Mr. Grantz took time on what had to be a hectic day to meet with me on such short notice.
What is important for Network faithful to understand is that currently the discussion about HR 3717 seems to be falling into two camps - for or against. Complicating the discussion is the fact that both those in favor and against find elements in the bill that they support (read our initial breakdown of the bill here). Regardless of our feelings about components of the bill that, from our perspective, set the family and youth movement back decades, open and constructive dialogue is key.
With that as a backdrop I am pleased to announce that Congressman Murphy has agreed to have a face-to-fact meeting with representatives of the Children's Mental Health Network to discuss the bill and hear our suggestions for how to improve upon the language in the bill and address our concerns.
Dialogue is key folks. Just saying no to a proposal that is now being discussed in forums that include support from elected officials from both parties will not work. We send a hearty "thank you" to Congressman Murphy for being true to his statements in the hearing about wanting input and look forward to a productive dialogue. We will keep you informed as the details of the face-to-face meeting get worked out. Look for an updated analysis of the bill in the next issue of Friday Update.
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network