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July 15, 2022

Package Of Bills Addressing Mental Health, Substance Use Issues Passed In June By The US House Of Representatives

Credit: WFMD, Kevin McManus

Washington DC. (KM) – The Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well Being Act is expected to come before the US Senate. The legislation, passed by the House of Representatives last month, is  actually a package of 37 bills, including six sponsored by 6th District Representative David Trone (D-Md)

‘This mental health crisis is just absolutely mind-boggling,” he says. “And the bill works on that and on a bunch of stuff in the addiction crisis also.”

Trone is the co-chair and co-founder of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force.

One of the bills sponsored by Congressman Trone is the Behavioral Health Coordination and Communication Act, which creates an interagency coordinator to address  and promote constant communication among all relevant agencies and departments in the federal government. The goal is to focus the federal government’s approach to mental health and substance use disorders.

Another piece of legislation is the Excellence in Recovery Housing Act which develops new guidelines to best practices in recovery housing and providers grants  to states to implement guidelines. “We got all over the country unevenness and sometimes very poor recovery housing. So that’s another big win to get that in the bill,” says Trone.

Representative Trone has also sponsored the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act of 2021, which authorizes $1.75 billion annually  for five years for a total of $8.75 billion to fund programs and resources for states and tribes for prevention, harm reduction (naloxone distribution), treatment (residential and outpatient) and recovery (housing and peer support).

A fourth bill sponsored by Congressman Trone is the Cost of Mental Illness Act of 2022 which directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conducted a study on the direct and indirect costs of serious mental illness.

There’s also the Elements of the STOP Stigma Act, which requires the Department of Health and Human Services to issue guidance for renaming the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse an other agencies with names that contain stigmatizing terms such as “abuse,” ”  addict” or “alcoholic.”

And there’s the Due Process Continuity of Care Act which amends the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy which will allow for Medicaid coverage of health care services for juvenile pre-trial detainees.

Trone says the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well Being Act was passed in June with bipartisan support. “We need to come together, and we have this bill–actually both of these bills–and a common cause to stop the mental health epidemic and the opioid epidemic  which is just largely ignored.” he said.

The second bill he was referring to is the Safer Act which Trone calls a “common sense” way to deal with gun violence. That bill has passed both houses of Congress and has been signed into law by the President. That law provide financial support for states to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of individuals that a court has determined are a significant danger to themselves or others. It also adds convicted domestic violence abusers in dating relations to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and clarifies the definition of “Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers.” There are also penalties for “straw purchasing” of firearms,  and allowing prosecutors to target illegal gun runners.

Trone says this law will not take away guns. “I’ve been a hunter all my life. I grew up on a farm and we hunted and continue to hunt. It has no affect on that,”: he said. “We don’t want people that have a mental health issue frankly to have a gun. If you have a mental health issue, you should not have a gun.”

Abortion

On Friday, the House of Representatives approved a bill which restores abortion access to women nationwide. Trone says he voted in favor of that legislation. “Women’s reproductive rights need to be determined by women and their doctor,:” he says.

No one else should make that decision for women. “I can’t speak and it’s not my job to tell anybody what to do in that area,”: said Trone. “Certainly not politicians’ job  to tell people what to do.”

In a statement from his office, Trone says at least nine states have banned abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade which said abortion is a constitutional right. He said half of all states across the country are expected to severely limit abortion in the weeks and months to come. “It’s really freedom is the key. It’s freedom for health care. It’s all about people having their freedoms. And women and doctors should have the freedom to make their own health care decisions.”

The bill is not expected to pass the US Senate.

The House also approved a related bill to prohibit punishing  a women or a child who decides to travel to another state to get an abortion.