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Rep. Murphy Discusses Mental Health Crisis with Monongahela Valley Hospital Leaders

Rep. Tim Murphy spoke to leaders at Monongahela Valley Hospital photo

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) spoke to leaders at Monongahela Valley Hospital on legislation he authored addressing violence and serious mental illness called The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717).
(May 5, 2014 - Carroll Township, Pa.)

Acronyms are an everyday reality for health care workers, and approximately 160 leaders at Monongahela Valley Hospital focused on an emerging one when U.S. Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), a licensed psychologist, discussed SMI or serious mental illness, during a recent leadership training day.

The Congressman discussed his pending legislation on violence and SMI, serious mental illnesses: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression.

The legislation he authored is called the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717) and Rep. Murphy provided some startling facts and figures uncovered by an investigation he conducted last year as chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

He said while 9.6 million Americans have a serious mental illness, 3.6 million go without treatment.

Rep. Murphy told the MVH leaders that the mentally ill are no more violent than anyone else, and in fact, are more likely to be the victims of violence and abuse than the perpetrators. He added that individuals with untreated serious mental illnesses are at an increased risk of violent behavior.

However, statistics show that treatment for SMI cuts the risk of violence - such as that experienced a little more than a year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School - by 15 fold.

His legislation empowers parents and caregivers by clarifying communication rules between medical staff and families; fixes the shortage of inpatient beds and provides alternatives to institutionalization with assisted outpatient treatment and by encouraging states to adopt need-for-treatment standards. In effect, focusing resources on the root of the dilemma.

Murphy said the federal government does indeed spend money on mental health, a shocking $125 billion a year, but that aid is scattered through programs from Medicaid to the Social Security Administration.

Another serious deficit in the mental health system is that the numbers of inpatient psychiatric beds is down from 550,000 for 150 million people in 1950 to only 40,000 for 317 million people today.

In other words, as mental hospitals disappeared and our population grew, U.S. prisons swelled with those who should be receiving treatment - 20 to 50 percent of all inmates have a serious mental illness.

Murphy has received letters of support for the legislation from more than 24 organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the National Sheriffs' Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Other key facets of the legislation include:

  • Advances tele-psychiatry to link pediatricians and primary care doctors with psychiatrists and psychologists in areas where patients do not have access to mental health professionals. Rep. Murphy said there is only one child psychiatrist for every 7,000 children with a mental illness or behavioral disorder and 50 percent of persons with mental illness are first afflicted by age 14.
  • Access to inpatient care for those with SMI. Currently, many are covered by Medicaid, which will not pay for treatment at psychiatric facilities with more than 16 beds. This increases overcrowding in emergency departments and in hospital behavioral health wards because there is no appropriate treatment facilities for patients to seek help for extended periods of time if they need care.
  • Push states to adopt policies that allow judges to order some severely mentally ill people to undergo treatment, because some people with severe disorders do not know or do not admit that they are sick.

Rep. Murphy's legislation is working through the committee process and has been added to the legislative agenda. An Energy and Commerce Committee hearing was convened on the bill on April 3.

Monongahela Valley Hospital leaders took advantage of the question and answer time after Congressman Murphy spoke. MVH's behavioral health unit is typically near or at capacity at all times and the law could potentially impact MVH's unit and the community served, if passed.

MVH President and CEO Louis J. Panza Jr. fondly referred to Rep. Murphy as "Dr. Tim," thanking him for always making time to hear about health care issues when Mr. Panza visits Washington D.C. Mr. Panza praised the Congressman's initiatives in mental health care changes and called him a good friend to MVH, who "knows what goes on in health care, in the Valley and in our community hospital."

For more information on the legislation, visit For questions on the legislation, contact Brad Grantz, 202-225-2301.

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