Sunday, 23 February 2020

National Updates: The ISMICC

The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC)
Just over one year ago, on December 13, 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act got passed into law. Unfortunately, this act included large portions of the Murphy Bill. The Murphy Bill (also known as the ‘Helping Families in Crisis Act’) was championed by former Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania who was recently forced to resign after it was revealed that he had had an affair with a much younger colleague, and then encouraged her to have an abortion when she thought she might be pregnant. (This contradicted his public anti-abortion stance.)

For many years, advocates and individuals with psychiatric histories across the country had fought against the Murphy Bill due to its regressive policies and increased measures involving forced treatment. Seeing it passed almost overnight, buried in another bill, was a painful blow to the movement. Among the changes brought about by the 21st Century Cures Act was a new oversight role (Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use) for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), to which Elinore McCance-Katz was appointed. (Unfortunately, McCance-Katz is also known for her narrow perspective on psychiatric diagnosis, and her negative views on peer support.)

You can view the full ISMICC report, learn who’s on the committee, and other information at:
Another new feature of the 21st Century Cures Act is the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC). Here’s the basics of ISMICC from their recent report:
The 21st Century Cures Act (Public Law 114-255) authorizes the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) to enhance coordination across federal agencies to improve service access and delivery of care for people with SMI and SED and their families. The ISMICC is charged to:
  • Report on advances in research on SMI and SED related to prevention, diagnosis, intervention, treatment and recovery, and access to services and supports;
  • Evaluate the effect federal programs related to SMI and SED have on public health, including outcomes across a number of important dimensions; and
  • Make specific recommendations for actions that federal departments can take to better coordinate the administration of mental health services for adults with SMI or children with SED. 
This committee is made up of a number of federal employees, alongside a variety of others (most of whom are known for their conservative views on all things related to the country’s mental health system). The committee held their first meeting in August, and they just released their first major report.
The report is 120 pages long, and while it speaks positively of peer support in many places, it also promotes Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (referred to as ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ or AOT), which focuses on forcing people in the community to take psychiatric drugs and engage in other types of involuntary treatment. It also heavily promotes early childhood screening. Screening is something that many advocates are critical of because the screening tools are so often sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, and they so often focus on
medicalizing reactions to difficult life situations.
Although it’s unclear just yet how much power ISMICC will truly have to make recommendations that will effect the nation, it is important to keep an eye on what they’re up to.
You can view the full ISMICC report, learn who’s on the committee, and other information at:



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