Discussing our mental health system in the context of public safety and violence prevention

April 18, 2013

Earlier today speaking from the House floor, I discussed our mental health system in the context of violence prevention. I also made note of the "Service Member Telemedicine E-Health Portability (STEP) Act," now public law, which expands access to care to our service members in a confidential manner through telemedicine. While the STEP Act serves our Active Duty, Reserve and Guard it provides a template that can be expanded to all those living with mental health issues.



"Mr. Speaker, In the debate over the terrible acts of violence that have been committed upon innocent men, women and children there is frequently one common issue, that of mental health.

As we all know, the profiles of the perpetrators in many of the recent acts of mass violence had histories of mental health illness. 

Deaths from suicide as well obviously have significant mental health implications.

The access barriers to mental health services and the stigma associated with seeking help are significant.

The safety of individuals living with these potentially disturbing behaviors, family members and surrounding communities deserve a more robust mental health system responsive to these issues.

I am proud to be the author of one of the only new laws in recent years to expand access to mental health services and reduce the stigma of seeking help.

The STEP Act or Service Member Telemedicine E-Health Portability Act expands access to care in a confidential manner through telemedicine.

While the STEP Act serves our Active Duty, Reserve and Guard it provides a template that can be expanded to all those living with mental health issues."

  • PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW (May 28, 2011) STEP Act would expand health care options for military: "A mere 387 words make up the STEP Act, but the legislation drafted by U.S. Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson is poised to aid tens of thousands of veterans nationwide. The Service members' Telemedicine and E-Health Portability Act was folded on Thursday into the $690 billion Defense authorization bill and sent to the Senate for passage… The bill also promises to recruit more specialists to treat veterans dogged by mental health maladies, boost the use of Internet technologies linking patients to doctors far away and prod the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs to better help wounded, injured or sick troops making the transition to civilian care. And the best part, Thompson said, is it won't cost taxpayers a penny. It merely changes existing outdated laws... "This is a very rural district. The STEP Act cuts the healing time for them and all of our servicemen and women, especially for mental health issues. "There's a stigma our warriors who need help must overcome. New medical technology can help them do that. If they can make use of Skype when they're overseas, they can use the same kind of technology to talk to specialists here." … The measure drew widespread bipartisan support in Congress. “It really is important to give military leadership and the military medical community the ability to provide care through every possible avenue," said Tech Sgt. Joel Mutschler, president of the Pennsylvania National Guard Enlisted Association at Fort Indiantown Gap. "The potential for this legislation to allow our members access to care through technology is great," Mutschler said. "We are unique to the active component in that, in most cases, we don't have a military medical facility close by to take care of our wounded warriors. "Giving them the ability to receive medical care without having to travel or by providing faster access to that care is key."
  • NATIONAL JOURNAL (May 29, 2011) Cutting Red Tape: Defense Bill Rider Encourages Telemedicine: “A quiet rider on the Defense authorization bill passed by the House on Thursday should make it easier for veterans to get mental health treatment--and perhaps other types of medical care as well, its sponsor says. The amendment sponsored by Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., cuts through some of the red tape that hampers military doctors, psychologists, and contractors who treat service members using telemedicine, such as Skype, video link, or even simple telephone calls. The Service members’ Telemedicine and E-Health Portability Act helps bypass individual state licensing requirements so that a licensed medical professional in one state can treat a patient in another, without having to get a medical license in the patient’s state…”