On Wednesday March 26th, 2014, Chairman Fred Upton (MI-06) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (CA-33) convened a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss how the shortage of beds for inpatient psychiatric care affects the seriously mentally ill, hospital care, and communities. The decrease in psychiatric beds of more than 90% since the 1950’s has left considerable question to where these mentally ill patients have ended up.
Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18) told committee members, “The result is that individuals with serious mental illness who are unable to obtain treatment through ordinary means are now homeless or entangled in the criminal justice system.” The insufficient treatment options in our communities facilitate such high levels of incarceration, where the mentally ill are staying on average 4X as long and costing 7X as much to the taxpayers. Congressman Murphy asked, “Where is the humanity in saying there are no beds to treat a person suffering from schizophrenia, delusions, and aggression?”
Congresswoman Diana DeGette (CO-01) addressed this issue. She said, “One reason why this problem is getting worse is because of budget cuts for mental health and addiction services at the state and local level.” She urged the committee to ensure increased access to mental health care to break the cycle and lessen this burden.
Ranking Member Henry Waxman (CA-33) shares the desire to end these practices. He said, “The Medicaid expansion is a good deal for the states, and it is desperately needed by millions of Americans. This committee should be working together to make sure that regardless of where they live, Americans in all 50 states can obtain this coverage.”
Following, Congressman Butterfield (NC-01) said that he is, “appalled at the states that have chosen not to expand their Medicaid coverage because they need it.” He recognized the importance of reaching out to all people by saying, “I can tell you that we need to extend a hand of friendship and a safety net for those that are in need.”
Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (NC-02) has experience working with these mentally ill patients in her previous service as a registered nurse. She recognized that this is a multi-faceted issue and stated, “This is not a political one. This is not one that we can’t reach across the aisle and work together.”
Finally, Congressman Tonko (NY-20) asserted that, “For far too long now, mental health issues have been swept away in the shadows so anything we can do to raise the profile and reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses is a very worthy endeavor indeed.”