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Tim M.
Republican PA 18

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  • Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

    by Representative Tim Murphy

    Posted on 2014-01-08

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    MURPHY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I want to share with you a story today from Liza Long.

    A year ago, Liza wrote about the difficulty she faces in raising a son who suffers from serious mental illness: ``I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son, but he terrifies me,'' she said.

    A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7- and 9-year-old siblings knew the safety plan. They ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael. I then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threatened to kill or hurt me.

    {time} 1030 That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn't have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a followup visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

    This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that, in hindsight, it will all make sense.

    I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza's mother. I am Dylan Klebold's and Eric Harris' mother. I am James Holmes' mother. I am Jared Loughner's mother. These boys--and their mothers--need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it's easy to talk about guns. But it's time to talk about mental illness.

    Liza shared her story with my subcommittee last year at a forum of parents of children with severe mental illness.

    After studying our Nation's mental health system for the past year as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee, we discovered those families who need help the most are the least likely to get it. And where there is no help, there was no hope.

    Federal programs meant to serve the severely mentally ill are failing. The Federal Government sets up barriers that make it increasingly difficult for mothers and fathers to care for a son or daughter coming of age who needs help for mental illness.

    Our current policies block or interfere with appropriate treatment. Funds are wasted on ineffective programs, and scientific standards are not used in determining where the moneys go to for grants and treatments. Our current policies have replaced hospital beds with prison cells and homeless shelters as options for the seriously mental ill. That is wrong and that is immoral.

    That is why I introduced the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 3717, to deliver care to those with severe mental illness who need better treatment--real treatment--not excuses and not delays.

    Today, Liza's son is doing better with the proper diagnosis and medical care.

    [[Page H27]] She wrote about where things stand with reforming mental health this week, 13 months after her initial letter, and discussed the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. She said: Considering our limited resources, it just makes sense to help those who are most in need. That was the rationale behind the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

    She continued to call for what is needed to help our seriously ill children, saying it is: access to medical care for the 11 million people who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. The bill seeks to accomplish this goal by empowering parents, increasing acute care beds, and promoting assisted outpatient treatment for as many as 50 percent of schizophrenia sufferers whose symptoms include anosognosia, or lack of awareness of their illness.

    The bill also addresses the critical shortage of child psychologists, where there's only one for every 7,000 children in the U.S., with funds for telepsychiatry, and seeks to reform SAMHSA by redirecting funds for community-based care toward evidence-based programs.

    The Wall Street Journal praised the bill, noting that SAMHSA, the government agency charged with funding community mental health treatment, has little or no focus on medically driven care, and of its 537 full-time employees, only two are physicians.

    Over the past months, I have received an enormous outpouring of support from parents and caregivers of loved ones who have serious mental illness. They know this bill takes mental illness out of the shadows of ignorance, despair, and neglect and into the bright light of hope.

    Each week, I will come before the House and share more stories like Liza's. I encourage my colleagues to join me in this endeavor by sponsoring the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 3717. Where there is real help, there is real hope.


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