Mental health: an update

Morgan Griffith
Report from Washington

I am pleased to report that my colleagues and I on the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed on a bipartisan basis the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) on June 15, following a multi-year effort which included many hearings and forums about America’s mental health care system as well as much bipartisan negotiation.
At one such hearing in June of 2015, Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds testified and shared with us various stories of mental health crises, including that of his son Gus. As you may recall, in November 2013, Senator Deeds was attacked by Gus before his son took his own life.
The day before the attack, Gus had been seen by a mental health evaluator under an emergency custody order. He was released, however, because no psychiatric bed was located.
When the mental health system fails, it can have devastating and unfathomable consequences. That the system didn’t work for the Deeds family as originally intended breaks my heart.
At the hearings, we heard of many situations just as heartbreaking from families across the country.
The common denominator in these cases and others is that we must do more. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is a good, early step in attempting to reform our broken mental health system.
Although this bill is not the last step, among other things, the legislation would award grants to states that improve or implement systems that coordinate their community-based response efforts. This would include databases of facility beds, so that mental health workers in the states know in what facilities and locations beds are available. Knowing where you have mental health beds available is vital to having an effective mental health system.
After having passed my committee, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act next heads to the full House for consideration. I am hopeful the full House and then the Senate will swiftly pass this bill. As your representative and a member of the Health Subcommittee, I will continue looking for ways we can improve our mental health delivery systems.
On June 16, I had the opportunity to testify before a House Budget Committee hearing.
Among other things, I encouraged the committee to change the budgeting process, because it is clearly broken. While I don’t have all the answers on how to best fix the process, I discussed the view I share with Thomas Jefferson that the Senate and House of Representatives are intended to function independently of each other, but that the House often has tried to appease the Senate.
Worrying about what may or may not pass the Senate is not the job of representatives. The job of Representatives, the closest representatives to the people, is to figure out what is best in our opinion for the country, and then work with the Senate to resolve our differences.
Allowing the Senate with their contorted processes to dictate an equally dysfunctional process to the House is inappropriate. In the House, we need to determine the most effective, efficient way to produce a budget and then appropriate accordingly.
Additionally, I also laid out my support of biennial budgeting. If we do the budget and appropriations on a biennial basis, the likelihood of a government shutdown over a House/Senate squabble is automatically cut in half. Also, a two-year budget and appropriations bills would create a more stable planning environment for agencies, businesses, and the American public.
Video of my remarks can be seen on my YouTube page,
On February 22, I wrote about “Brexit,” the process by which Great Britain is voting on whether or not it should remain with the European Union (EU).
As an American, it is not my place to take sides, but this vote will have an impact on both sides of the Atlantic. The vote occurs on June 23, and I am watching this situation carefully. It will be interesting to see what our friends in Great Britain decide. Either way, I look forward to the strong relationship between our two nations continuing.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at
Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.


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