Federal mental health bill aims to refocus treatment efforts: 5 things to know

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act July 6. The bill is touted as the most significant piece of legislation relating to mental health since 1962, according to the Daily Herald.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a licensed psychologist, introduced the legislation following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. in Dec. 2012.

Here are five ways the bill aims to change how lawmakers and the public look at mental health:

1. Refocusing treatment efforts. The legislation calls for physicians and other medical professionals to examine the underlying causes of serious mental conditions instead of focusing on what Rep. Murphy calls "wellness and happiness" efforts, according to the Daily Herald.

2. Create a new assistant secretary for mental health and substance use disorder position. This person in this position would help ensure the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommends treatment methods that have been proven effective to combat conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

3. Change health information laws. Provisions in the bill allow parents and caregivers of mentally ill adults to receive medical information to help provide adequate care. It would also require Medicaid to pay for up to 15 days of inpatient treatment a month for mentally ill individuals.

4. Track patients' data. The act would require community treatment centers that receive federal funding to track data regarding the number of patients they treat, their conditions and outcomes.

5. Not a gun control effort. Lawmakers in favor of the bill said the legislation is not a means to voice their opinions on the gun-control debate. Instead, it is about improving care for a number of chronic illnesses that are widely misunderstood and may lead to tragedy.

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