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Senate Panel Unveils Mental Health Bill

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Monday night unveiled a bipartisan bill, which was drafted with help from Obama administration officials, addressing mental health.

The bill would improve coordination between federal agencies and departments that provide services for mental health patients, update block grants for states to better support patients, require agencies and programs to incorporate best practices into their treatment, require agency leadership to include professionals who have experience treating mental health and increase access to mental health care among populations who struggle to find care, lawmakers said.

The bill comes from Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), along with Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who had previously introduced broad mental health legislation. The bill is scheduled to be marked up on March 16.

“This bill will help address this crisis by ensuring our federal programs and policies incorporate proven, scientific approaches to improve care for patients,” Alexander said in a statement.

The country’s mental health system has long needed to be addressed, Murphy added.

“Individuals struggling with mental illness may go years without receiving treatment, ultimately suffering in isolation, or being cast aside and abandoned by the very system they should be relying on,” he said in a statement. “Too many Americans with serious mental illness slip through the cracks, and Congress must act to stop it.”