Change is a Choice: Reflections on the Markup of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

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Post by Leah Harris on Pete Early website

I spent several hours reviewing the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee markup of “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis” Act (H.R. 2646). Some supporters of the Murphy Bill claim that Democratic objections to the bill should be dismissed as typical partisan wrangling. But this markup was much less a matter of partisan politics and much more a question of just how to fix our broken system. It is a battle about resources: whether to focus on funding a few costly, late-stage crisis interventions that only apply to a very small subset of people, or to reform the system from the ground up with a focus on preventing the very crises that the bill purports to address. It is a battle between outdated, authoritarian approaches to care, versus collaborative, person-centered approaches that represent the latest in science and good medicine.

At the markup, Democrats put forward the same arguments against the bill that have been made by mental health service users and advocates since the first version of the legislation was introduced in December 2013. The laundry list of objections to the bill are far too numerous to reiterate in this piece, but can be found  here  and  here. Arguments against the Murphy bill have rarely been heard in the mainstream media, which overwhelmingly endorse the bill and fail to include critical perspectives. For this reason, I was heartened to see clear critiques of the bill finally make it into the public record.


  1. Lily's avatar
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    A bill that seeks to abolish the robust prevention infrastructure we have begun to build which, despite the claims of those who choose to ignore the last 10 years of evidence, is capable of reducing the incidence of crisis among those experiencing mental illness, is not a bill that needs improvement. It is a bill that needs to be unceremoniously tossed out.
  2. George Patrin's avatar
    George Patrin
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    Folks, I get it, forced incarceration in poor treatment programs is wrong and a violation of basic human rights. But allowing a person to remain ill with non-life-sustaining thought processes, often ending in injury and death (suicide) is also wrong. families want and need SOMETHING changed to enable them to get their loved one help. We are currently giving ill people the 'right' to no help, languishing in our society, often, again, homeless and bullied, ostracized. A truly mentally ill person cannot make good life sustaining choices for themselves. Anosognosia runs deep - in patients and in politics. Doesn't this bill ultimately advocate more for the people needing care than for families wanting care for them, contrary to all the rhetoric? Can it be improved? Yes. But stalling out the movement isn't the answer either. Isn't the real issue that we have no great treatment facilities for those who need mental health care? The places loved ones are locked into today are inhumane and inadequate on almost every level. THIS is the societal problem needing legislation to reverse BEFORE we pass a bill allowing involuntary commitment!
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