ATR Statement on H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures/Mental Health Reform Package

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, November 29th, 2016, 1:47 PM PERMALINK

Congress will this week consider H.R. 34, “the 21st Century Cures Act.” This fiscally responsible legislation promotes medical innovation by streamlining the discovery, development, and delivery of medicines. It also reforms the nation’s failing mental health system to ensure millions of Americans receive the care they need. Members of Congress should have no hesitation supporting and voting “Yes” on this important legislation.

Fiscally Responsible: The 21st Century Cures package contains no tax increases, and all new spending is fully offset over the ten year window with corresponding spending cuts, as noted in an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

In all, H.R. 34 provides $6.3 billion in funding over the next ten years, including $4.8 billion to the NIH, $1 billion to combat opioid abuse, and $500 million to the FDA. Unlike the version of Cures passed last year, spending in the updated version is not mandatory, so Congress will retain necessary oversight over all spending.

More than half of the legislation’s spending is offset by rescinding funds from Obamacare’s unaccountable Prevention and Public Health Slush fund, a fund that has been used to push the Obama administration’s partisan agenda with non-existent congressional oversight. Other offsets include several changes to Medicare and Medicaid that will help promote the sustainability of these programs in the decades to come.

Promotes Medical Innovation: H.R. 34 devotes significant resources to streamlining the long process of medical innovation by reforming the discovery, development, and delivery of medicines and treatments.

Reforms include reducing regulatory red tape, breaking down barriers that restrict data sharing, speeding up clinical trials while increasing patient input, promoting new technologies, and expediting the review of potentially breakthrough devices.

While the resources needed to develop new cures are costly and time consuming, the potential savings to the broader healthcare system are significant. Updating the regulatory system governing the development of new medicines and treatments will ensure the U.S. remains a world leader in treatment, that the lives of millions will improve, and that costs will be minimized.

Reforms Failing Mental Health System: All too often, the U.S. mental health system fails to provide proper treatment to the millions that need it. The federal government spends roughly $130 billion on mental health each year, often with underwhelming and ineffective results. While there are 112 federal programs dedicated to addressing mental health, there is little, if any coordination. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has even been dubbed the “worse government agency”.

While there is need for change, the solution cannot be spending billions in a system is plagued by inefficiency and waste. Instead, H.R. 34 contains many important reforms that update the mental health system without spending any new money.

Specifically, the legislation reforms SAMSHA, creates more oversight and connectivity over the many programs and agencies involved in mental health and priorities evidence-based care that empowers caregivers, supports innovation, and advances early prevention programs.

In addition, the legislation creates more support for the mental health workforce, for on-campus mental health education, and for addressing substance use. 

There is clear support for reforming our mental health system in this direction. Similar legislation, “the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” (H.R. 2646), sponsored by Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 422-2 earlier this year. Lawmakers should have no hesitation again supporting these important reforms.

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