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White House Conference Aims to Reduce the Stigma of Mental Illness

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Obama, right, delivers opening remarks to the White House Mental Health Conference on Monday.

“And in some cases, when a condition goes untreated, it can lead to tragedy on a larger scale,” he said.

Obama also praised former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who attended the conference, for his leadership on mental-health issues and his work in Congress on mental-health parity. And the president touted the 2010 health care law for expanding mental-health and substance-abuse benefits to more than 60 million people.

Although mental-health legislation was incorporated into the gun package that was considered on the Senate floor, the measure was pulled from the floor earlier this year. That’s left supporters in limbo.

In the House, meanwhile, lawmakers have been focused on gathering information about mental-health issues through letters and hearings but have not advanced legislation.

Rep. Tim Murphy, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, delivered a letter to the White House at Monday’s conference asking for the president’s help in obtaining information the committee requested from the Office of Management and Budget. The Pennsylvania Republican wrote that “serious questions have been raised on whether federal resources are being directed to evidence-based programs that are most effective at treating the seriously mentally ill” through the panel’s work.

The letter noted that the lawmakers have asked the agency to compile a list of all programs to help the mentally ill, the amount of annual funding for each and the amount that goes toward the treatment of serious mental illness, and they have not yet received a response.

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