On March 16, The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee marked up S. 2680 The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016. In keeping with his previous tradition, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-AL) accepted 5 noncontroversial amendments that passed via voice vote. He did this because he wants any other amendments that may be perceived as partisan or controversial to be offered on the floor of the senate, which requires a 60 vote threshold to pass, as opposed to a simple majority in committee. With the senate makeup at 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats (or independents who caucus with Democrats), this ensures that any amendment offered on the floor must have bipartisan support.
There is no timeline for floor consideration but it is expected to be sometime in April. AAMFT continues to meet with committee staff to provide feedback to make the bill more inclusive of MFTs.
The description of the 5 amendments that were accepted are below:
A Manager’s Amendment is usually a number of amendments that both sides can agree to or that are technical fixes in drafting. It is offered by the manager of the bill to expedite the process.
The Manager’s Amendment would make changes to the requirements of block grants for prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, and require the secretary to conduct a study on the distribution of funds under the block grant.
- Reauthorize mental and behavioral health grants.
- Authorize the secretary to identify programs for eating disorder treatment education and training.
- Include assistance to pregnant and expecting mothers with substance abuse disorders under existing substance use disorder treatment grants.
- Authorize grants for screening, assessment and treatment for maternal depression through fiscal 2021.
- Establish grants for infant and early childhood mental health prevention, intervention, and treatment programs.
- Make several changes related to health insurance coverage reporting.
- Reauthorize suicide prevention technical assistance center funding through fiscal 2021.
- Require several reports on mental health and substance use disorder treatment and prevention.
Elizabeth Warren Amendment
An amendment to specify conditions under which prescriptions for a controlled substance can be partially filled and would prohibit the remaining portions of partially-filled prescriptions from being filled 72 hours after the prescription is issued in emergency situations.
Lamar Alexander Amendment
An amendment to establish a compliance program on mental health and medical benefit parity. Requires guidance documents on mental health care coverage information disclosure. Requires an action plan of enforcement of existing mental health parity laws.
Senator Collins Amendment #1
An amendment to order a GAO Study on mental health services for children, looking at both access and availability.
Senator Collins Amendment #2
An amendment on Mental Health on Campuses