H.R. 2646, Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015, as amended

H.R. 2646

Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015, as amended

Rep. Tim Murphy

January 1, 1970 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, July 6, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015, as amended, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 2646 was introduced on June 4, 2015 by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), and was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition, to the Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The Committee on Energy and Commerce ordered H.R. 2646 reported, as amended, on June 15, 2016 by a vote of 53-0.


Bill Summary

H.R. 2646 reforms the nation’s broken mental health system by refocusing programs, reforming grants, and removing federal barriers to care. Specifically, the legislation establishes a new Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use to run the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMSHA) and help coordinate mental health programs across the federal government.  H.R. 2646 would also create a National Mental Health and Substance Abuse Lab to drive evidence-based grants, and directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to undertake rulemaking to clarify when communication can take place under HIPAA to help ensure the best communication among providers, families, and patients to improve mental health treatment for those with serious mental illness. The bill codifies a recent Medicaid managed care rule to foster access to care for short-term stays of adults in institutions for mental disease, and includes targeted authorizations and reauthorizations to improve mental health care for children with serious emotional disturbance or adults with serious mental illness, including expansion of Assisted Outpatient Treatment and the strengthening of our mental health workforce.

For a detailed section-by-section of the legislation as it was considered in Committee, please see here.


More than 11 million Americans have severe schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. [1] Millions are going without treatment, and individuals and families struggle every day to find appropriate care.

After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Representative Tim Murphy started investigating the nation’s mental health system through his position as Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The investigation included public forums, hearings with expert witnesses, and document and budget reviews, revealed that the approach by the federal government to mental health was a chaotic patchwork of antiquated programs and ineffective policies across numerous agencies.

A recent GAO study highlighted that 112 federal programs intended to address mental illness are not connecting for effective service delivery and “interagency coordination for programs supporting individuals with serious mental illness is lacking.”[2] Meanwhile, the federal government dedicates $130 billion annually towards mental health.  There is a nationwide shortage of 100,000 psychiatric beds, and three of the largest mental health “hospitals” are in fact criminal incarceration facilities (LA County, Cook County, and Rikers Island jails).  Current privacy rules prevent physicians from sharing important health information with family members of affected individuals, resulting in the neediest not receiving proper care.  And finally, for every 2,000 children with a mental health disorder, there is one child psychiatrist available.[3]

According to the bill’s sponsor, “It is not just a new bill, but marks a new dawn for mental health care in America. We are moving mental health care from crisis response to recovery, and from tragedy to triumph. I am tremendously proud of the work we’ve accomplished and so encouraged about our nationwide grassroots support involved in advancing our legislative vision to help families in mental health crisis.”[4]

[1] See https://murphy.house.gov/helpingfamiliesinmentalhealthcrisisact114.
[2] See GAO-15-375T
[3] See Rep. Murphy’s Press release, “Reps Murphy and Johnson Reintroduce the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” June 4, 2015.
[4] Id.


A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is currently not available. However, the legislation is fully offset, with a net deficit reduction of $5 million.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.