Essential Pittsburgh
2:12 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Mental Healthcare Overhaul Would Give Family and Caregivers More Say in Treatment

US Representative Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair
US Representative Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair
Credit Official Portrait

U.S. Rep.Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, recently proposed legislation to overhaul the nation's mental health care system.

He wants to increase accessibility to care while expanding the use of involuntary treatment. This would better allow family members and caregivers to intervene in cases involving the severely mentally ill.

The bill, called the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act has received mixed reviews. Last Thursday the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee heard testimony on the legislation.

Congressman Murphy said there are roughly 10 million people in the US who suffer from severe mental illness and about half of them are not even aware that they have a problem. 

“You have over 3 million people with severe mental illness who are not getting treatment.” Murphy explained, noting that most people with mental illness are not violent “Those who are getting treatment are 15 times less likely to be involved in some violent aspect.”

The bill would also break down barriers for caregivers and family by clarifying doctor patient confidentiality laws. “Many times a doctor will refuse to talk to parents who are saying ‘My child is out of control, they’re hallucinating, they’re struggling.’ And the doctors say ‘No, confidentiality laws mean I can’t talk to you.' In the meantime the parent can’t be told what time their child has an appointment and the medications they’re on.”