Issue: Gun Violence
The proposed legislation could impact state court processes.
Court leaders have supported federal funding to assist the states to effectively address offenders with mental-illness.
On 4/16/15, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Representative Doug Collins (R-GA) introduced the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015. The companion bills (S 993/HR 1854) aim to increase public safety by facilitating collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, veterans treatment services, mental health treatment, and substance abuse systems. This measure would:
On 8/5/15, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX.) introduced the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act (S. 2002). The major focus of the bill is on preventing unnecessary incarceration of people with mental illness and enhanced treatment and services for individuals with mental illness while incarcerated and following release. The bill specifies that federal resources should be used to expand programs with proven effectiveness. The bill also directs federal resources to be used for improving mental health and substance use treatment for people who are incarcerated and for services to assist people with mental illness reentering communities. Additionally, S. 2002 proposes to amend the NICS program by clarifying when mental health records should be reported for inclusion in the system and when they shouldn’t. The bill does not propose to expand existing requirements, but rather to make the requirements clearer. The bill would also replace the terminology currently in the federal gun reporting law, “persons adjudicated as mentally defective”, with more current and accepted terminology, “persons adjudicated as incompetent.”
Also on 8/5/15, Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) introduced The Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S. 1945) to “comprehensively overhaul and strengthen America’s mental health care system.” The bill addresses many of the same issues as the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646) introduced by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-LA) in the House of Representatives, although there are differences between the two bills. S. 1945 includes provisions to:
One of the differences between H.R. 2646 and S. 1945 is that S. 1945 would not incentivize states with laws permitting “assisted outpatient treatment”, but would offer a 2% bonus for mental health outcomes.
On 11/4/15, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved HR 2646 by a vote of 18-12, mostly along party lines. The manager’s amendment clarified contentious language that some critics said would have tied state mental health block grants to whether they adopted assisted outpatient treatment laws involving court-ordered treatment for people who have a history of not taking their medication. Reportedly, 44 states have assisted outpatient treatment in at least one jurisdiction.
On 12/10/15, the Senate passed Senator Franken’s S.993 by a voice vote. On 1/12/16, the House Judiciary Committee approved the companion bill (H.R. 1854) by a voice vote.
A revised version of HR 2646 was approved by the House on 7/6/16. This bill was approved in the lame duck session and signed into law on 12/13/16 making it PL 114-255.