Congress Authorizes National AOT Demonstration Project
(April 1, 2014) A national assisted oupatient treatment (AOT) demonstration project is a step closer to reality today, thanks to Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan).
Last December, Murphy introduced the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 3717), the most significant federal attempt to reform mental health care in the US since the Kennedy era.
Among the bill’s many groundbreaking provisions is a federal assisted outpatient treatment grant program to help local mental health systems launch their own AOT programs. First proposed by the Treatment Advocacy Center in January 2013 as a recommendation to Vice President Biden’s task force on gun violence, the federal grant program would be a godsend to the many local officials who tell us they believe in AOT but are challenged to raise the start-up costs, however modest, in a time of slashed public mental health budgets.
While work goes on to build support for HR 3717 itself – including a hearing this Thursday in the House Subcommittee on Health – Murphy and Stabenow last week added the AOT demonstration project to an unrelated bill to delay a scheduled cut in doctor reimbursements under Medicare (the “Doc Fix”). When President Obama signs the legislation, as expected, the Department of Health and Human Services will have authority to award $60 million for up to 200 AOT start-up grants over the next four years. (Individual grants could award up to $1 million.)
“Authority” represents only half the battle here. For the program to take shape, Congress must next appropriate the necessary funds. To keep up to date on this potentially enormous breakthrough (and help us support the programmatic request at the appropriate time), please make sure you are signed up for our email updates.
In the meantime, we commend and congratulate Rep. Murphy and Senator Stabenow for their great work in bringing the dream of an AOT grant program to life.
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