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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2014


Worthy of support

A bill before Congress would undertake the most comprehensive reform in years of the nation’s ailing mental-health system. The bill, the product of a yearlong investigation, addresses the problem of better treating the subset of mentally ill people who may commit violence, especially with firearms.

Last week, the bill had its most important hearing to date before a House subcommittee. This time, some mental-health advocates disputed praise for the bill. That isn’t necessarily a problem, because controversy is to be expected.

The measure is bound to offend some advocacy groups that would lose funding under the bill, which would reallocate money for the purpose of using resources better. Although their point of view needs to be considered, it should not be the last word. Other experts in the field unequivocally favor the bill.

At the hearing, some witnesses expressed alarm over the bill’s efforts to force mentally ill patients to get treatment. Patients’ rights are worthy of respect, but there are some cases in which patients can’t be their own advocates, even if they don’t meet the “imminent danger” standard for treatment.

The bill is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R., Pa.), a clinical psychologist. The note of controversy should not be the bill’s death knell. Congress needs to advance the measure, and Democrats need to help.

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