Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act Testimony - Stop Stigmatizing People with Psychiatric Disabilities

On December 12, 2013, Representative Tim Murphy 18th District of Pennsylvania introduced H.R. 3717 the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013. This followed a number of hearings held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, most specifically the Oversight and Investigation subcommittee, on our nation’s mental health system. These hearings focused on everything, with the exception of one witness, on the needs of everyone but the individual our nation’s mental health system is supposed to serve, the individual with a psychiatric disability.

As can be seen from the material below, H.R. 3717 is a step backwards in the treatment of mental health. However, an alternative bill was introduced on May 6, 2014, H.R. 4574 the Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act of 2014, which will move our mental health system forward in a positive way. This comprehensive mental health legislation focuses on correcting the problems in the mental health system in a way that reduces stigmatization and increases access to treatment resources.

Nancy Jensen, who is known as the “girl who cried wolf” at the Kaufman House in Newton, Kansas submitted testimony on a Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3717 The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act on April 3, 2014. The Kaufman House was a mental health group home that broke headlines across the nation, in 2004 after victims were subjected to bizarre and terrible sexual abuse, physical abuse and what prosecutors described as “involuntary servitude.”

According to Nancy, “[the bill] would destroy funding for the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Health Illness (PAIMI) program and takes away its ability to hold abusers accountable and protect the rights of people with mental illness, including the right to treatment.”

The PAIMI program helped Nancy and hundreds of other victims finally shut down the Kaufman House and provided justice in a broken system. The PAlMI program protects and advocates for the rights of people with mental illness and investigates reports of abuse and neglect. P&A agencies provide advocacy services to individuals who have "a significant mental illness or emotional impairment."