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August 01, 2016

Mental Health

Mental health legislation passed by the House last month does not include provisions opposed by the ABA that would have prevented programs under the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI) from engaging in certain advocacy and litigation on behalf of individuals with serious mental illness. The provisions, which were opposed by the ABA when they were part of the original version of the bill, H.R. 2646, would have mandated that protection and advocacy activities under PAIMI be exclusively focused on abuse and neglect. The ABA maintains that this would block Protection and Advocacy Agencies (P&As) from serving some of the most vulnerable citizens. Currently, PAIMI requires that P&As in every state and territory protect and advocate for the rights of individual with mental illness and investigate incident of abuse and neglect of these individuals in all public and private facilities and in community settings. The agencies also have the authority to provide legal representation and other advocacy services to persons with severe mental disabilities. Under the legislation, essential information and referral services would be restricted along with other critical legal services to thousands of individuals regarding issues such as inappropriate or excessive medication, lack of appropriate mental health treatment, financial exploitation, the need for transportation to or from residential care facilities, admission to residential care facilities, discharge planning, housing and employment discrimination, and denial of visitors. During consideration of the legislation last fall by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman wrote to the subcommittee that information and referral services were provided in 2015 to 32,798 individuals and that more than 80,000 individuals, family members, mental health planners and social services professionals benefited from training provided through PAIMI grants.

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