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:
- authorize grants for sequential intercept mapping and implementation for mental health and criminal justice stakeholders;
- authorize use of adult and juvenile criminal/mental health collaboration program grants to establish multidisciplinary teams that coordinate and implement community-based crisis responses and long-term plans for frequent users of crisis services;
- authorize grants to teach law enforcement personnel how to identify and respond to incidents involving persons with mental health disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders; and
- revise the definition of "preliminarily qualified offender" for purposes of collaboration program grants to (1) include veterans treatment court program, (2) remove a requirement that the person be accused of a nonviolent offense, (3) require a person to be unanimously approved for participation, and (4) disqualify a person who has been charged with or convicted of a sex offense or murder or assault with intent to murder.
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. 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:
- improve transparency and strengthen enforcement of the federal mental health and addictions parity law;
- clarify the circumstances in which HIPAA permits health professionals to communicate information to family members or other caregivers, and;
- implement a new grant program to stimulate early intervention and mental health treatment for children, youth and transition age young adults.
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.
Representative Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) was incorporated into the 21st Centuries Cures Act (H.R. 34), which was signed into law on 12/16/16 becoming PL 114-255.
Rep. Murphy and his allies are seeking full funding for programs authorized by the 21st Century Cures Act. These programs include the Community and Mental Health Services Block Grant and the Substance Abuse Prevention Treatment Block Grant.