Tuesday, 12 December 2017



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!


Organizations For & Against


At this time, this section refers primarily to the House Murphy Bill (HR 2646) and NOT the statements for or against the Senate Murphy Bill (S. 1945).  Stay tuned for future updates regarding supporters and opposition to each of the bills.

Click on each organization's name to read their position statement.


Organizations taking a stand AGAINST the Murphy Bill:



Organizations coming out as PRO Murphy Bill and PRO force:



Murphy Bill Overview

On Thursday, June 4, 2015 the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act was re-introduced by Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. It is also known as H.R. 2646 or, perhaps most commonly, as the ‘Murphy Bill.’ Although it is claimed that the second version of this Bill contains several compromises, it seems just as bad as the first.
In fact, it may actually be worse, and here’s why:
The second version of this bill uses toned down language and seems like it’s let go of some of it’s original (and more controversial) priorities. However, most of the ‘toning down’ seems superficial in nature, and so what this actually means is that the Bill is all the more likely to get passed while still essentially allowing for the same setbacks, invasiveness and rights violations to those receiving (or targeted as needing) services in the mental health system.
Ultimately, as with the first time this bill was introduced (2013), it suggests many changes to existing laws and programs that pose a serious risk to our work and movement.
Some of the most notable points include:
  • Increased Forced ‘Treatment’
  • It Guts the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • It Severely Limits How Advocates Can Support People Whose Rights are Being Violated
  • It Loosens Restrictions on HIPAA
  • Murphy Pretends to Support Peer-to-Peer Support as a Method to Control and Limit It


  • Increased Forced ‘Treatment’: The Murphy Bill seeks to loosen restrictions on when force can be used and ties certain types of federal funding to state implementation of Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC) laws (also known as Assisted Outpatient Treatment or ‘AOT’). Although the Bill no longer requires a block on federal funds to a state that does not employ IOC, it still incentivizes it by giving more to states that do. IOC is a particular form of forced ‘treatment’ that allows for forced medication and a number of other requirements and limitations regarding how someone lives their life, sometimes for reasons as simple as the system feeling that that person has been hospitalized too frequently. (For more on IOC, see this article: www.westernmassrlc.org/rlc-articles/214-outpatient-commitment-laws-a-massachusetts)
  • It Guts the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):SAMHSA has and continues to provide funding that many feel is important and highly impactful both for people who   struggle with addictions and substance abuse and those who struggle with emotional or mental distress, trauma and psychiatric diagnosis. For example, they provided the initial funding for Second Story Peer Respite in California. They are also responsible for funding peer-to-peer technical assistance centers like the National Empowerment Center in Massachusetts and Peerlink in Oregon, as well as for the funding that helped the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community develop the Handbook on Peer Roles (available here: www.psresources.info). Whatever complaints their may be about SAMHSA, gutting them and moving funds under the control of the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment would inevitably lead to the loss of many supports, particularly in the peer-to-peer realm.
  • It Severely Limits How Advocates Can Support People Whose Rights are Being Violated:In the first version of the bill, Murphy sought to gut the budget of the ‘Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness’ (PAIMI) programs (i.e., operating under the Disability Law Centers). This version shifts its tactic from budget reduction to placing limits directly on the authority of such advocates to act on complaints. In the end, the result is the same: Less support and advocacy to people whose rights are being violated.
  • It Loosens Restrictions on HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is what requires medical and mental health professionals to go to great lengths to keep your information private. In this second version of the Bill, Murphy has pretended that he is compromising by no longer okaying the release of psychotherapy notes. However, his new Bill still allows for the release of diagnosis, treatment plans, medication plans, and so on to family and caregivers even when against the person’s will.
  • Murphy Pretends to Support Peer-to-Peer Support as a Method to Control and Limit It: In the first version of the Murphy Bill, funding for peer roles was not supported. In what is being marked by some as a ‘concession’ by Rep. Murphy, the new bill encourages funding for peer support. However, the funding comes with a strict definition of what people in peer roles are able to do along with a requirement that they be supervised by mental health clinicians. Should this come to pass, it would devastate the concept of independent peer-run efforts and severely limit some of the most impactful peer supports currently available.

And all this is just the tip of the iceberg!

For more information:


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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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