House to vote on long-delayed mental health bill in July

House to vote on long-delayed mental health bill in July
© Greg Nash

The House will vote on a long-delayed mental health reform bill in July, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office said Wednesday. 

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The announcement is another major step forward for the legislation, which had been delayed for years but finally was voted out of committee this month. 

The committee vote came after House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) worked to make major changes to the bill, scaling back many of the more sweeping, costly provisions. 

The bill ended up passing committee this month by an overwhelming vote of 53-0, smoothing the path to passage by the full House. 

Democrats have called the bill a good first step but argued that without major new funding, the measure is incomplete. 

The bill would create a new assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee mental health and substance abuse programs. The official is intended to be a doctor, which Murphy touts as a way to bring needed oversight to government mental health programs that he says are often ineffective in their current form. 

The bill includes measures such as grants for innovative programs that are intended to make initiatives more effective. 

It also authorizes grants for areas such as preventing suicide and early intervention for children with mental illnesses. Funding for the range of grants will depend on the appropriations process. 

The measure includes scaled-back changes to Medicaid to allow it to pay for more care and changes to health privacy laws to allow information about mentally ill people to be shared with caregivers more easily. 

The vote in July will come as the Senate is also looking for a path forward on a similar mental health bill from Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenate Dem: Graham-Cassidy is an 'intellectual and moral garbage truck fire' Dems call for action against Cassidy-Graham ObamaCare repeal Murphy fires back at Trump on filibuster MORE (D-Conn.). 

The Senate side has floated the idea of attaching mental health provisions to the product coming out of the conference committee working on opioid legislation, but there are some fears that could slow the opioid bill down.