- A House panel moved forward Wednesday on a mental health reform bill despite objections from Democrats that they have not been included in the process.
- The bill, which has been in the works for years, was advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on an 18-12 vote that primarily went along party lines. It was first introduced in 2013 in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting that occurred in 2012.
- Although Democrats on the panel complained bill sponsor Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) did not negotiate with them, the bill is said to have 45 Democratic co-sponsors that are mostly off the panel.
Despite the early discord on the bill, there remains opportunity for bipartisan coordination.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said Democrats’ concerns could be addressed prior to the full committee's consideration of the bill, which has not yet been given a date.
“We want the process to move forward,” Upton was quoted by The Hill. “It’s been years.”
Murphy agreed to work with Democrats going forward, though he discounted the arguments that they had previously been left out, and the bill was reportedly amended in an effort to obtain Democratic support.
Democrats' concerns about the bill include increased federal grants to states where judges can require treatment for patients with serious mental illness, and HIPAA changes to allow caregivers and family members to obtain more health information about a mentally ill person.
Democrats argue the bill is geared toward managing crises involving individuals with mental health issues rather than prevention efforts.