(CNN) – Just days before the first anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school massacre, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania introduced new legislation Thursday that seeks to improve the mental health system.
Rep. Tim Murphy, who spent three decades as a psychologist before coming to Capitol Hill, said little has been done in the past year to "get those who need help the help they need," despite tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook and countless others that get less attention.
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"The past few decades, this nation has moved forward in knowledge of what it takes to help, but has moved backwards in getting that help done," he said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "And where there is no help, there is no hope."
Murphy isn't the only Congressman holding a mental health related event Thursday. Rep. Ron Barber, D-Arizona, will host his second session on recognizing signs of mental illness.
Barber, who was shot in the Tucson mass shooting that severely wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, has also introduced legislation that focuses on raising awareness about mental health symptoms and services.
As for Murphy, his bill attempts to clarify federal privacy rules so that mental health professionals can better communicate with their patients' parents or guardians.
It also calls for more psychiatric beds and in-patient and out-patient services for those covered by Medicaid and fall between the ages of 22 and 64. As of now, many mental health services covered by Medicaid–the largest insurance provider for behavior health services–are limited only to those under 21, while studies show mental health disorders mostly manifest between the ages of 14 and 25.
The bill also advocates for tele-psychiatry, a practice that allows individuals who live in rural areas better access to psychologists and psychiatrists
In addition, the legislation would create an administration position called the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use disorders in the Health and Human Services Department.
It also tries to combat Medicaid and Medicare policies that permit only one prescription drug per therapeutic class, meaning physicians can't prescribe all the medications they could for certain illnesses.
Furthermore, Murphy wants to authorize the BRAIN research initiative, which has been advocated by President Barack Obama and calls for investments in mental illness research.
Mental health legislation has proved to be a potentially viable path in the movement to combat gun violence. While an overall gun control package in the Senate fell short of the number of votes it needed to proceed earlier this year, one of its amendments-which sought to boost mental health services-received overwhelming support.
Senators who sponsored the amendment have said they'd like to introduce the measure as a stand-alone bill.