A bill co-authored by US Senator Bill Cassidy that seeks to reform mental healthcare has passed the US House and could receive Senate approval next week. Cassidy says this legislation is two years in the making, with the goal of making sure patients are not denied care. He says the bill should foster more mental health professionals, as well as create more outpatient treatment settings.

“We expand access to mental health resources. We clarify rules on disclosure of patient information with family caretakers. We integrate primary and behavioral healthcare,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy says someone with mental illness dies 20 years younger than someone without it because physical health problems aren’t addressed. In his bill, the same day rule allows someone to be seen by a psychiatrist and physical health doctor on the same day. He adds there’s three times more mentally ill people in prisons than hospitals.

“We have traded the hospital bed for the prison cell, the park bench, and the morgue because that’s where these folks with mental illness often end,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy says some privacy laws inhibit communication between mental health providers and in-home care givers. He says the bill also establishes a Grant program focused on intensive early intervention for children who demonstrate signs of mental illness.

“Including the 0 to 3 age. Didn’t think it was possible, but early signs of mental illness, or at least a propensity towards, can be seen even at that early age,” Cassidy said.

The bill also provides for suicide prevention and substance abuse programs.