Obama signs historic 21st Century Cures Act to reform MH care system
With President Barack Obama’s signature on Dec. 13, the 21st Century Cures Act, widely considered to be landmark healthcare legislation, was passed into law.
The bill, which was more than two years in the making, gained bipartisan support and was passed by both chambers of Congress during a lame duck session. The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 95-4, and the U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 392-26.
The 21st Century Cures bill includes provisions long championed by Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) in the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act as well as provisions in the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, sponsored by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) The bill provisions include:
- Reauthorizing grants to support integrated care models so that mental health professionals can work more closely with primary care doctors.
- Reauthorizing grants for training programs, such as the APA Foundation’s Typical or Troubled? program, which trains school officials to identify students in need of mental health services.
- Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan to ensure enforcement of federal parity laws that mandate that insurers cover mental illness the same as any other ailment.
- Providing $1 billion in state grants to address the opioid epidemic.
In addition, the bill strengthens existing parity laws so that mental illness is treated just like any other illness and it better coordinates the efforts of federal agencies responsible for treating mental illness.