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The Many Problems with the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

That’s Okay, We’ll Micro-Manage SAMHSA Too

Demonstrating they have little faith in many of SAMHSA’s current public education campaigns, programs and advocacy efforts, Tim Murphy also wants to micro-manage whatever SAMHSA has left to manage after it’s gutted of its community mental health blocks grant oversight.

With several exceptions, transfers all responsibilities for oversight of mental health policy from SAMHSA to the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health.

Requires that SAMHSA notify the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee 90 days prior to sponsoring or hosting any conference.

Prohibits SAMHSA from providing any financial assistance for any program relating to mental health or substance use diagnosis or treatment, unless such diagnosis and treatment relies on evidence-based practices.

Prohibits SAMHSA from establishing any program or project that is not explicitly authorized or required by statute.

By the end of fiscal year 2014, any SAMHSA program or project that is not explicitly authorized or required by statute will need to receive congressional approval to continue.

Want to run an advocacy program? Forget it. Want to sponsor a conference? Forget it (say bye-bye Alternatives 2015!).

Want to do anything on the cutting edge or innovative? Forget it. Want to do anything that isn’t arbitrarily “evidence-based”? Forget it.

Imagine if we put these same kinds of handcuffs on military spending. “Oh, you have no data to show this new jet fighter at $2 billion apiece will be as effective as our current jet fighter? No problem, let’s authorize 100 of them anyway.”

Or the FDA? “Oh, dying cancer patients want access to an experimental drug that may kill them just as well as help treat their cancer? No, we don’t want the FDA running any kind of program like that… just let ’em die.”

You get the picture. Mental health is again being singled out for special attention for no other reason than because it’s mental health. For anything else, we’d call that discrimination.

Why This Bill Should Die

Look, there are some good ideas buried within the guts of Tim Murphy’s H.R. 3717.1 But this bill does very little to actually “fix the nation’s broken mental health system.” Instead, it’s an obvious attempt to force ideologies of certain kinds of medicine and treatment onto the system — and by extension, all states — that will likely do little to help in the long-run.

It mandates state legislatures pass laws their citizens may not actually want in order to continue to receive funding traditionally provided by the federal government to help fund states’ mental health treatment programs.

It attempts to micro-manage a federal agency through egregious restrictions that have no basis in any data, facts or science, but instead appear to be purely politically motivated. It’s narrow-mindedness of purpose and intent is scary, especially in its promotion of only one simplistic view of how mental illness should be treated. It ignores the complexities of the problems faced by real people struggling with real mental illness.

It completely ignores the importance and primacy of the role of the patient, with patients completely shut out of hearings that led to the formulation of the bill. It has no virtually no patient endorsement of support of it. It instead elevates the paternalism of both the government and professionals — “those who know what are in the best interests of the patient.”

And it demonstrates a complete lack of appreciation, understanding and insight into what it means to be in recovery for a mental health or substance abuse issue. It is the kind of bill that appears to be written by policy makers, physicians, and experts who never bothered to actually get their hands dirty in talking to patients and those therapists who work in community mental health every day.

That’s why Psych Central — and the over 350,000 Americans we represent — is against the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Instead of simply providing what’s needed — more money and resources to states with no strings attached — it seeks to force a particular patient-hostile ideological agenda down everybody’s throat. While parts of it deserve passage, taken as a whole, it’s a bad bill that deserves to die.

The Many Problems with the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act


  1. Which, today, has only 72 co-sponsors, compared to the 274 co-sponsors the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 had. []

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). The Many Problems with the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 12, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 13 Apr 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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