House Approves Criminal Justice and Mental Health Reforms by 392-26

The massive and controversial 21st Century Cures Act includes provisions designed to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails and prisons.

According to the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments, “The bill encompasses the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, which authorizes funding for services related to mental health in the criminal justice system, including for identification, treatment centers, crisis response and intervention, reentry and transition assistance, and mental health courts. It also includes the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act … [which] would facilitate collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, and behavioral health systems to ensure that people with mental illnesses receive the support they need.”  The Senate is expected to pass the bill during the first week of December. Click here for full article.

Many of these provisions support the recommendations of three task groups appointed by the Dane County Board of Supervisors last summer.  Click here for their report, “Investigating Solutions to Racial Disparities and Mental Health Challenges in the Dane County Jail and throughout Dane County’s Criminal Justice System.”

The legislation, however, is a mixed blessing.   NPR reported that PhRMA, the trade group for pharmaceutical companies, spent $24.7 million lobbying for provisions in the bill.  Senator Elizabeth Warren claims they were successful, charging that the bill was “hijacked” by the pharmaceutical companies.  The legislation would ease requirements for approval of drugs and medical devices and eliminate some reporting requirements for doctors who accept money from drug manufacturers.

Click here for Warren’s statement and here for an NPR report on winners and losers if the legislation becomes law.  Consumer and patient safety groups are listed as losers, as is preventive medicine.   Advocates for mental health are listed as winners.

UPDATE:  Click here for updated information about the impact of CURES on criminal justice/mental health reform.






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