Murphy visits Yale Department of Psychiatry to discuss mental health reform legislation

Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., visited the Yale Department of Psychiatry on February 12 to discuss the mental health legislation he has proposed in the Senate.

Murphy was introduced by Luming Li, MD, a second-year resident, who represented the department's Psychiatry Mental Health Services/Policy Discussion Group, which invited Connecticut's junior senator to speak at Yale.

Murphy last year introduced the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 with Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy from Louisiana. The legislation proposes sweeping changes in how mental health services are delivered and paid for. It provides additional funding for early intervention programs for children who demonstrate significant risk factors for mental illness, expands the number of mental health clinics throughout the United States, and provides funding for an assistant secretary to oversee mental health services.

The bill is now being negotiated in the Senate health committee, and Murphy is confident it will be brought forward for further discussion.

"In very short order we might get some version of this big mental health reform bill to the floor of the Senate and ultimately to the president's desk," said Murphy, who spoke in the auditorium at the Connecticut Mental Health Center. "It's moving fast, and I'm spending a lot of my time on this."

Murphy said reforms are desperately needed to a system that he said is broken and underfunded. The impetus for his proposal was his knowledge that 44 million Americans -- or one in every five adults -- suffer from mental illness every year.

The success or lack of success for the mental health system in the end will be told by our patients. You are trying to make them more satisfied with their lives. We've fixed the mental health system when these patients tell you they feel better about their lives.

Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn.

He said a more staggering statistic is that people with mental health issues die 25 years earlier than their peers largely from treatable conditions.

The shortage of clinicians and beds must be addressed, and the proposed bill provides money to expand the number of treatment facilities, he said.

The legislation would also provide grants to better integrate physical and mental health services, and allow patients to use physical and mental health services at the same facility on a given day.

In response to a question, Murphy said people can help get the legislation passed by encouraging national health care groups to lobby their members of Congress to support it.

Murphy said he held 12 listening sessions throughout the state to understand people's concerns about mental health before the legislation was drafted and proposed last August.

He hopes the bill, or at least many of its provisions, will become law so patients gain more access to services.

"The success or lack of success for the mental health system in the end will be told by our patients," he said. "You are trying to make them more satisfied with their lives. We've fixed the mental health system when these patients tell you they feel better about their lives."

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This article was submitted by Christopher S Gardner on February 12, 2016.

Sen. Christopher Murphy Visits Yale Department of Psychiatry
Luming Li, a second-year psychiatry resident, introduced Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., during his visit to Yale on February 12. Murphy spoke about the mental health reform legislation he introduced in the Senate last year.