Sunday, 25 February 2018



Murphy Bill Overview - Senate Version

Just one day after Senator Chris Murphy's birthday, on Tuesday, August 4th, he and Bill Cassidy put out a press release about their new bill, the 'Mental Health Reform Act of 2015.' Also known by its recently assigned number, S. 1945, many are referring to the Bill  as the second Murphy Bill.  Although some seem to be touting it as a great 'bipartisan' effort that mostly focuses on continuing existing programs, a closer read reveals that it is just as bad as the House Murphy Bill in most respects and often near identical.

Like the House Murphy Bill:

  • It loosens restrictions on HIPAA, esentially taking away rights from individuals with psychiatric diagnoses simply because they are so diagnosed
  • It focuses on the concept of 'evidence-based' to the detriment of many of the most innovative and effective supports currently available and ignoring all the problems with the concept of 'evidence-based' itself
  • It includes peer support and peer specialist roles in an effort to control and limit them, rather than support and expand them
  • It continues support fo so-called 'Assisted Outpatient Treatment' (Forced outpatient Commitment!) programs, in spite of their being proven not to work and clearly violating the rights of people who are so forced

Overall, it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding and belief in the potential of people to be go through difficult experiences, be given psychiatric diagnoses, heal and go on with their lives.  (For example, according to the bill, 'peer specialists' must have been in active treatment for the last two years, suggesting that there is no belief that someone with a psychiatric diagnosis may ever be doing well and not be in treatment.)  It limits or eliminates many innovative supports that have not been able to achieve 'evidence-based' status, and feeds a country begging for change more and more of the exact same thing.

For more information:

  1. Check out these talking points from 'Campaign for Real Change in Mental Health Policy' (At least for the moment, the talking points focus more on the House Murphy Bill, but given the similarities, they're still helpful!
  2. Listen to this special 'Talk with Tenney' radio show called, 'Reading the Cassidy-Murphy Bill'
  3. Check out the Muphy Bill webinar slides from the Mental Health Association of Pennsylvania and check back on their website in the near future for a recording of their recent August 11 webinar!
  4. Read the Senate Murphy Bill yourself
  5. Check out this article for a few more suggestions!



Who is Chris Murphy?

Full name:  Christopher Scott MurphyChris Murphy official portrait 113th Congress

Born:  August 3, 1973

Residency:  Born in New York, Lives in Connecticut

Current Position:  US Senate, Connecticut's 16th District (since 2004)

Background:  Murphy graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law.  He has had a relatively lengthy political career both as campaign manager for other politicians and holding elected office beginning in 1997 when he won a seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission in Southington.  He also held a seat in the House of Representatives before moving into the Senate.

Party Affiliation:  Democrat

Why People are Listening to Him: 

  • Because the Murphy Bills are now seen as decidedly 'bipartisan' and with one Republican Murphy and one Democrat Murphy, the general public is associating the 'bipartisanship' with fairness, collaboration and positive direction overall
  • Murphy has a relatively long political career during which he has taken many strong and well-respected (by many) stances on social issues such as same-sex marriage
  • At least compared to Tim Murphy, his political career seems relatively low on scandal and corruption and (also unlike Tim Murphy) his top 5 donors are include neither the healthcare nor the pharmaceutical industries

Why People May Want to Think Twice About Listening to Him:

  • In spite of his claims of having talked to 'many people' around his state about this issue, he is fairly ill-informed about about the topics in this bill
  • Although Chris Murphy does not have the same questionable pharmaceutical/healthcare connections, he is essentially copying (sometimes just about word-for-word) the Bill of someone who is so influenced (which makes him influenced by association!)
  • Living in Connecticut admist the aftermath of Sandy Hook, he is under an incredible amount of pressure to do something that 'looks' good (even if it's not terribly well thought out or even harmful if one looks below the surface)


For more about Chris Murphy, see his Wikipedia entry here.


The RLC now offers a new 'STOP THE MURPHY BILL' website page including:STOP the Murphy Bill
  • An overview of the Murphy Bill
  • Ways you can take action to STOP the Murphy Bill
  • A variety of related blogs and articles

More on the Bill:

In early June, an updated version of ‘Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis’ Act (HR 2646) was re-introduced by Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania to the United States Congress. Not surprisingly, the response to this controversial legislation has been mixed. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has fairly consistently come out in favor of bills that prioritize families and attempt to implement measures that increase access to force over their struggling relatives. In fact, the New York chapter of NAMI gave Murphy an award for his legislative advocacy just last year (following the release of the first version of the Murphy Bill). Fortunately, those in opposition took that opportunity to get vocal and protest the award ceremony, gaining some publicity for the efforts to prevent the Bill from passing.

NAMI now continues to show support as demonstrated by a letter from their Executive Director, Mary Gilberti, to Murphy himself (available by clicking here) congratulating him for taking steps to “improve mental health treatment, services and supports across the United States.” 

NAMI’s letter was disappointing, but not a shock. Much more surprising was the testimony of Paul Gionfriddo (new President and CEO of Mental Health America (MHA) at the recent Murphy Bill hearing. MHA had previously been known for its consistent (and even outspoken) opposition to the Murphy Bill and other force-related legislation. Gionfriddo, however, is best known for using MHA as a platform from which to promote the idea of ‘four stages of mental illness’ and authoring a book (“Losing Tim”) where he details his own son’s experience with psychiatric diagnosis and homelessness. It would appear that, in his testimony, he spoke not only for himself, but also for MHA (an organization with historic roots in the movement) when professing his “full support.” His testimony is also available on our website: http://www.westernmassrlc.org/images/stories/Testimony-HE-Gionfriddo-H.R.2646-Mental-Health-2015-6-16.pdf.

Read more: New 'STOP THE MURPHY BILL' Website Page


Please note:  At this time, this section focuses on actions related to the House Muprhy Bill (HR 2646).  It will be updated in the near future to reflect actions that can be taken to stop the Senate version (S. 1945), as well!

It can be really hard to know where to even begin when it comes to the legislative process, but there are a number of things you can do and some of them require very little energy.  These include:

  1. Sign this petition and share it with your friends!
  2. Share blogs and articles against the Murphy Bill on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  3. Write or call your state legislators (see below for sample statements)
  4. Stay informed about recent developments!!!
  5. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper or magazine or blog on-line! (See below for tips on how to do this effectively)

Contacting your Congressperson:

To find the contact information for your representative:


Your letter can include these suggestions adapted from @bazeloncenter on twitter

  • “As a constituent, I am calling (or writing) today to ask you (or Representative ______) to oppose the Murphy mental health bill H.R. 2646.
  • It severely limits critical legal advocacy on behalf of individuals with psychiatric diagnoses
  • It reduces privacy protections for individuals with psychiatric diagnoses.
  • It redirects federal money from innovative programs to involuntary outpatient commitment, which is expensive and ineffective.
  • And H.R. 2646 increases needless institutionalization.”


(Your name)

Meeting with Your Congressperson:

Click here for information on how to schedule a meeting with legislators and what to say when you go!


Writing a Letter to the Editor:

Click here for some tips on what to do (and not do) when writing a letter to the editor couresty of www.reclaimdemocracy.org!



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  • The Murphy Bills and Beyond

    In June of 2015, Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania re-introduced the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act" (HR 2646), better known as the Murphy Bill.  A month later, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced a very similar bill in the Senate called the "Mental Health Reform Act of 2015" (S2680).  Both pieces of legislation threatened to dramatically increase the use of force and dismantle many of the more progressive and healing alternatives that have been developed in recent years. As of November 2016 the fate of both bills remained uncertain.

    Meanwhile, another piece of legislation called 21st Century Cures was in development and garnering increasing bipartisan support. A sweeping and expansive healthcare bill, 21st Century Cures was, initially, minimally focused on mental health provisions. Having been stalled in part due to resistance from Senate Democrats' concerns that the bill was dangerously empowering for the pharmaceutical industry, 21st Century Cures also faced an uncertain fate in November. However, the election of President Trump and consequent fears for the bill’s fate prompted a reworking of the bill that also included the absorption of many aspects of HR 2646, “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis.”

    21st Century Cures was passed by the House and Senate on November 30th and December 7th of last year, respectively. On December 13, 21st Century Cures (now including substantial portions drawn directly from HR 2646, "Helping Familties in Mental Health Crisis") was signed into law by President Obama. 



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