Donovan predicts House bill will help mentally ill
A bill passed by the House of Representatives last week to reform the country’s mental health programs will go a long way toward helping those who are ill, U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan predicted.
Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) co-sponsored the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which was approved by the Republican-controlled House on July 6. The bill enjoyed a great deal of bipartisan support and was passed by an overwhelming margin of 422-2.
The legislation seeks to target funding to effective treatment programs while at the same time focusing resources on developing innovative alternatives, according to Donovan.
Among its provisions, the bill would authorize $450 million in block grants to states to serve adults and children with serious mental illnesses.
The legislation would create a mental health policy laboratory to track mental health statistics and identify the most effective treatment methods.
Under the bill, a new position, assistant secretary of mental health, would be created to coordinate federal activity and oversee a national registry of programs.
Police officers would be retrained to properly handle altercations with the mentally ill as part of the legislation.
In addition, the bill would authorize funding for outpatient treatment programs and community-based treatment programs, which Donovan said are aimed at reducing hospitalizations and arrests of mentally ill individuals.
Donovan, the former Staten Island district attorney, said he dealt with numerous cases involving mentally ill people during his days as a prosecutor.
“I spent most of my career as a prosecutor, and many of our cases involved mentally ill individuals. The criminal justice system cannot treat this population — jails are not de facto mental health clinics,” Donovan said in a statement.
Donovan said three of the country’s largest mental health “hospitals” (LA County, Cook County and Rikers Island) are criminal incarceration facilities.
The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act “takes the right approach: it dedicates funding to programs that work, and focuses attention on developing new treatment strategies,” Donovan stated.
The legislation seeks to improve upon the current state of the country’s mental health services, Donovan said.
He cited findings from the Government Accountability Office, which showed that while there are 112 federal programs to address mental illness, there is no coordination between the various programs.
While the U.S. government spends $130 billion a year on mental health services, there is a nationwide shortage of 100,000 psychiatric beds, according to Donovan.
The legislation was sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
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