The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (SB 2680) Would Be a Huge Step Backwards

On July 6, HB 2646 (the Tim Murphy Bill) passed the US House and was sent to the Senate.

At the present time, a related bill is working its way through the Senate.  This is SB 2680, The Mental Health Reform Act 2016.  It is sponsored by Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), David Vitter (R-LA), and Al Franken (D-MN).  The wording of the bill was finalized in March of this year, and it passed out of committee on March 16.

There is a good measure of bi-partisan support for this bill in the Senate, and if it makes it to the floor it could pass.  If that were to happen, it would likely be reconciled with the Tim Murphy House resolution, and a reconciled version would be enacted.

SB 2680 purports to provide desperately needed help to suffering Americans but is in reality a thinly-disguised tool to expand the scope of psychiatric “care”, with all the drugging, death, damage, and destruction that this entails.

On March 16, 2016, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions issued a press release titled:  The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 will help Americans suffering from mental health and substance use disorders.  Here are some quotes, interspersed with my comments and observations.

“The Senate health committee today passed legislation to help address the country’s mental health crisis and help ensure Americans suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders receive the care they need.”

Note the term “mental health crisis”.  There is indeed a crisis in the mental health business.  The crisis derives from psychiatry’s spurious and self-serving premise that all significant problems of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving are brain illnesses that are correctable by psychiatric drugs.  This false premise, avidly promoted by pharma, is the cornerstone of the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry, and is the primary reason that psychiatric drug use in America has reached epidemic proportions.

The fact that these so-called illnesses are so vaguely defined makes it easy for pharma-psychiatry to rope in new recruits.  But the maw of greed can never be satisfied, and pharma-psychiatry continues to lobby for more.  Every undrugged person is money down the drain!

For decades, psychiatry has been inventing new “illnesses” and liberalizing the criteria for others, and it is clear that their objective in all this is to make their so-called mental illnesses as prevalent as the common cold:  everyone gets one from time to time, and psychiatry has “safe and effective treatments”.  There’s no need to suffer – just take a pill or a high-voltage electric shock to the brain.  And keep coming back!

Back to the press release:

“‘One in five adults in this country suffers from a mental illness, and nearly 60 percent aren’t receiving the treatment they need,’ said Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).”

It is a logical and mathematical axiom that one can’t quantify what one can’t define.  But even if we set aside the inanity of these oft-touted statistics, it is clear that vast numbers of Americans who could get a “diagnosis” and a prescription for pills at their local mental health center, choose, wisely, I suggest, not to avail themselves of this “service”.  To Senators Alexander, Murray, Cassidy, Murphy, Vitter, and Franken, however, all of whom, incidentally, have received campaign money from the pharmaceuticals/health products industry, this is a national tragedy – a crisis, no less, that has to be corrected through legislative action.

“‘This bill will help address this crisis by ensuring our federal programs and policies incorporate proven, scientific approaches to improve care for patients.'”

“Proven, scientific approach” means more pharma-funded psychiatric research, with ever more opportunities for over-stated conclusions and even out-and-out fraud.

Senator Murray points out that the bill, if enacted, “…would help expand access to quality care, and make sure that patients receive coordinated mental and physical health care.”

Note again the emphasis on expanding care.  Also note the promotion of co-ordination with physical (i.e. real) medicine; read:  a mental health liaison worker in every GP’s office.  The APA has been pushing this idea for years.  The idea is that one goes to see one’s GP for a bad cough, is “screened” for mental health issues, and comes away with an antibiotic for the cough and an antidepressant for some vague psychosocial concerns.

The press release continues in the same vein.  All the old chestnuts are there, e.g.:

“This bill is an important step in the road to recovery for the 44 million Americans who suffer from a serious mental illness.”

“…our broken mental health care system…”

“…we allow those with mental illness to fall through the cracks.”

“…families struggling to get a loved one the help they need.”

“…prevent suicide…”

“…provide mental health awareness for teachers and others…”

“…evidence-based approaches…”

etc.

DISCUSSION

SB 2680 is littered with platitudes, and for this reason, there is a danger that many of its provisions might be seen as benign, and even desirable.

For instance, the bill calls for the identification of

“…strategic priorities, goals, and measurable objectives for mental and substance use disorder activities and programs operated and supported by the Administration, including priorities to prevent or eliminate the burden of mental illness and substance use disorders;”

and

“…to improve services for individuals with a mental or substance use disorder…”

and

“…ensure that programs provide, as appropriate, access to effective and evidence-based prevention, diagnosis, intervention, treatment, and recovery services…”

etc.

All of these proposals seem positive and helpful, but the bill is solidly rooted in psychiatry’s spurious medical model.  Psychiatric concepts and language permeate the text.  The term “mental illness” is routinely used as if it had the same ontological significance as real illness.

To convey the general tone and thrust of the bill, here’s the full text of Sec 502, which pertains to child psychiatry:

SEC. 502. TELEHEALTH CHILD PSYCHIATRY ACCESS GRANTS.

(a) In General.—The Secretary of Health and Human Services (referred to in this section as the “Secretary”), acting through the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration and in coordination with other relevant Federal agencies, may award grants through existing health programs that promote mental or child health, including programs under section 330I, 330K, or 330L of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 254c-14, 254c-16, 254c-18), to States, political subdivisions of States, and Indian tribes and tribal organizations (for purposes of this section, as defined in section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450b)) to promote behavioral health integration in pediatric primary care by—”

Translation:  The Federal Government may award grants to promote the embedding of psychiatric concepts and practices into pediatric primary care by:

“(1) supporting the development of statewide or regional child psychiatry access programs; and

 (2) supporting the improvement of existing statewide or regional child psychiatry access programs

(b) Program Requirements.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—To be eligible for funding under subsection (a), a child psychiatry access program shall—

(A) be a statewide or regional network of pediatric mental health teams that provide support to pediatric primary care sites as an integrated team;

(B) support and further develop organized State or regional networks of child and adolescent psychiatrists to provide consultative support to pediatric primary care sites;”

Note:  “networks” of psychiatrists advising and supporting pediatricians!  What kind of advice do you think these networks of psychiatrists will provide?

“(C) conduct an assessment of critical behavioral consultation needs among pediatric providers and such providers’ preferred mechanisms for receiving consultation and training and technical assistance;

(D) develop an online database and communication mechanisms, including telehealth, to facilitate consultation support to pediatric practices;

(E) provide rapid statewide or regional clinical telephone consultations when requested between the pediatric mental health teams and pediatric primary care providers;

(F) conduct training and provide technical assistance to pediatric primary care providers to support the early identification, diagnosis, treatment, and referral of children with behavioral health conditions and co-occurring intellectual and other developmental disabilities;”

What kind of training do you think these access programs will be providing to pediatricians?  Facile “diagnostic” checklists?  Treatment guidelines that recommend neuroleptic drugs for 3-year-olds who display temper tantrums?  The thinly-hidden agenda here is to erode whatever resistance remains among pediatricians to psychiatric orthodoxy, and bring them on board the great psychiatric drugging bonanza.

“(G) inform and assist pediatric providers in accessing child psychiatry consultations and in scheduling and conducting technical assistance;

(H) assist with referrals to specialty care and community and behavioral health resources; and

(I) establish mechanisms for measuring and monitoring increased access to child and adolescent psychiatric services by pediatric primary care providers and expanded capacity of pediatric primary care providers to identify, treat, and refer children with mental health problems.”

In other words, the Feds will be checking to make sure that they’re getting value for their money in the form of more children drugged.

“(2) PEDIATRIC MENTAL HEALTH TEAMS.—In this subsection, the term “pediatric mental health team” means a team of case coordinators, child and adolescent psychiatrists, and a licensed clinical mental health professional, such as a psychologist, social worker, or mental health counselor. Such a team may be regionally based.

(c) Applications.—A State, political subdivision of a State, Indian tribe, or tribal organization that desires a grant under this section shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary may require, including a plan for the comprehensive evaluation and the performance and outcome evaluation described in subsection (d).

(d) Evaluation.—A State, political subdivision of a State, Indian tribe, or tribal organization that receives a grant under this section shall prepare and submit an evaluation to the Secretary at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary may reasonably require, including a comprehensive evaluation of activities carried out with funds received through such grant and a performance and outcome evaluation of such activities.

(e) Access To Broadband.—In administering grants under this section, the Secretary may coordinate with other agencies to ensure that funding opportunities are available to support access to reliable, high-speed Internet for providers.

(f) Matching Requirement.—The Secretary may not award a grant under this section unless the State, political subdivision of a State, Indian tribe, or tribal organization involved agrees, with respect to the costs to be incurred by the State, political subdivision of a State, Indian tribe, or tribal organization in carrying out the purpose described in this section, to make available non-Federal contributions (in cash or in kind) toward such costs in an amount that is not less than 20 percent of Federal funds provided in the grant.

The meaning and intent of Sec 502 is absolutely clear:  if this legislation passes, Congress is going to pour money and resources into providing more psychiatric care to children.

And how do psychiatrists provide care for children?  They drug them.

THE EMPIRE IS FIGHTING BACK

In the past ten years or so, opposition to psychiatry’s medicalization of virtually every human problem has been growing.  As the venerable and prestigious psychiatric leader Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, has lamented on more than one occasion, psychiatry is the only medical speciality that has its own anti group.  And of course, as we all know, there are very good reasons for this.

We also know that American psychiatry as a whole has been extraordinarily unreceptive to any kind of criticism.  Indeed, their response has been to double down – to assert with increasing vigor that their concepts are sound, their research valid, and their practices helpful and benign.

They have also hired a renowned PR firm and have been lobbying hard in political circles.  SB 2680 and the Tim Murphy House bill are the result of these endeavors.

This is the hidden face of psychiatry, using the legal machinery to push its pernicious concepts and practices deeper and deeper into the lives and institutions of the American people, with increasingly disastrous results.

Incidentally, the sponsors of SB 2680 received the following sums of money from the pharmaceutical/health products industry during the current election cycle (source: OpenSecrets.org):

            Lamar Alexander        $452,548

            Patty Murray               $542,778

            Bill Cassidy                 $234,502

            Chris Murphy              $121,876

            Al Franken                  $131,088

            David Vitter                   $7,850

If you live in the US, please ask your Senators to oppose SB 2680.  Tell them that we don’t need any more psychiatric drugging, particularly of our children!

  • S Randolph Kretchmar

    In addition to trying to outright defeat this bill in the Senate going forward, constituents should try to get the sponsors to defect/withdraw their sponsorships.

    Amendments should be offered to discourage use of an invalid DSM for “diagnosis”, to restrict circumstances for drugging children’s behavior, to require coroner investigations of child suicides and psych drugs, to strictly require statistical reports on the uses and results from psychiatric “treatments” of children, and more….

    It has to be a continuing, all-out, multi-faceted involvement, or it will be too-little-too-late.

    It’s possible that even if this bill passes, it will prove an overreach by the likes of Lieberman, APA, et al. They may hasten their own loss of power by effectively flaunting it to an American public which is not as stupid or as compliant as they think. (At least, I’d sure like to hope so!)

  • Phil_Hickey

    Randolph,

    Thanks for these thoughts. I particularly favor use of coroner inquiries to expose the drug-suicide link. Brian at AntiDepAware has been doing this single-handedly in the UK for years.

    It is beyond time that this should be a routine consideration in every suicide investigation.

  • Circa

    Could you tell me what the current standard is for forced treatment in the USA? And how will the threshold be lowered if the Murphy bill is passed?

  • Circa

    Re: the suicide/antidepressant link, how would it be determined whether a suicide was due to the drug or the underlying depression? Genuinely curious. I have heard (although I don’t know if it’s a reasonable explanation) that in some cases an antidepressant gives a person just enough energy to die by suicide. This seems implausible to me. If you want to die, it doesn’t take much energy to do it.

  • Phil_Hickey

    Circa,

    The short answer is that it can’t be determined conclusively what induced a person to commit suicide. In theory one could design experiments to provide answers, but they would be unethical and, because suicide is still a relatively rare event, would require very large numbers of participants.

    So, the next best thing is a quasi-judicial inquiry, where one looks at the individual cases and tries to identify what might have been the major precipitating factor. I’m working on a post at present on this very topic, and I came across an old article by Shear, Frances, and Weiden in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, 1983. The authors describe two cases where individuals had been put on a neuroleptic (Prolixin), had incurred severe akathisia, and had killed themselves. The authors obviously couldn’t say for sure what had precipitated the suicides, but by examining the circumstances, including family reports, they leaned very heavily towards the akathisia explanation. And of course antidepressants also cause akathisia.

    Incidentally, take a look at AntiDepAware’s latest post, In Defence of the Prosecutor.

    I should have the post up within a week or so.

    Best wishes.

  • Circa

    That’s great, Phil. Thanks. As always, I’m looking forward to your next post.