- Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) are working with the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee members, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and the Obama Administration on the bipartisan bill to reform the country's mental health and substance misuse treatment systems.
- A similar bill under negotiations by the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored by Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), is opposed by Democrats who say it will make it easier for individuals with mental health issues to obtain guns.
- The debate over gun policy and mental health remains an obstacle since Republicans often recommend mental health reform as a response to gun violence while Democrats want gun control and mental health reform because the system isn't working, according to Morning Consult.
Despite their differences, both parties agree on several mental health policy priorities. These include: Increasing access to mental health services; addressing the shortage of mental health professionals; improving leadership within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); integrating primary care and mental health and substance misuse treatment; and modernizing federal programs for those with mental health issues.
Those working with Sen. Alexander's bill want to distinguish mental health reform from the gun control issue. However, what would happen if it makes it to the Senate floor remains to be seen. Sen. Alexander told Morning Consult they hope to have the bill ready to be considered in committee next month.
According to a 2014 report from SAMHSA, approximately 42.5 million American adults suffer from some mental illness every year, with 9 million of those experiencing serious mental illness. In addition, only about 63% of adults with serious mental illness received treatment in the year they reported the illness.