12/07/2016 — 

WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. Senate today voted 94-5 to pass a major medical research and mental health bill, that contains $4.8 billion in federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for programs like the precision medicine initiative and the cancer research “moonshot” program.  It also directs $1 billion over the next two years to help states combat the abuse of opioids, prescription drugs, and heroin.

U.S Senator Jack Reed voted for the bill and authored a key provision to improve mental health services for young people and help prevent the tragedy of youth suicide.  Reed’s Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act reauthorization was included in the bill to help improve access to counseling for at-risk teens and promote the development of statewide strategies for suicide early intervention and prevention.  This measure will also provide federal funding for competitive grants to help states, colleges, universities, and tribes improve mental and behavioral health counseling services.  Overall, the bill authorizes the federal government to award up to $43 million annually to help states and non-profit institutions prevent youth suicide.

Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults age 10 to 24 – and results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Additionally, the CDC reports that 157,000 young adults in this age group are treated for self-inflicted injuries annually, often as the result of a failed suicide attempt.

“We are losing far too many young people in this country to the tragedy of suicide.  We must do more to end the stigma attached to mental illness and improve the mental and behavioral health of children and young adults before they hurt themselves or others.  Many young people have a treatable mental illness, but they don't get the help they need.  This bill provides critical resources for prevention and outreach programs to help reach at-risk youth before it is too late,” said Reed.  “Schools, colleges, and universities are on the front lines of preventing youth suicide and this law will help direct additional resources to diagnose and treat our young people.  I am especially pleased that for the first time, this bill will allow funding to be used for mental health treatment on college campuses, the most effective way to prevent suicide.  I have worked with advocates across the mental health community for the better part of the last decade on this effort, so I am pleased to see this come to fruition.”

Last week the House passed the 21st Century Cures Act on a vote of 392-26.  The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

Specifically, the bill will:

  • Help bring safe drugs and devices to market more quickly and at less cost by making needed reforms to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including: expedited review for breakthrough devices, increased patient involvement in the drug approval process, a streamlined review process for combination products that are both a drug and device, and freedom from red tape for software like fitbits or calorie counting apps.
  • Provide $4.8 billion to National Institutes of Health, including: $1.8 billion for Vice President Biden’s "Cancer Moonshot” to speed cancer research; $1.4 billion for President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative to drive research into the genetic, lifestyle and environmental variations of disease; and $1.6 billion for the BRAIN Initiative to improve our understanding of diseases like Alzheimer's and speed diagnosis and treatment.
  • Provide $500 million to the FDA.
  • Provide $1 billion in grants to states to address the opioid crisis.
  • Address the country’s mental health crisis and help the one out of five adult Americans suffering from mental illness receive the care they need.
  • Improve electronic health records for doctors and their patients.