Glenn Close visiting Capitol Hill to advocate for mental health bill

December 17, 2013

Glenn Close, at the Kennedy Center Honors last weekend in Washington. (Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post)

This item has been updated and corrected.

Another big-name Hollywood actress is coming to Capitol Hill as part of a year-long push to pass new legislation expanding access to mental health care.

Glenn Close will join senators Wednesday in support of the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a measure co-sponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that is aimed at strengthening the nation’s fragmented mental health-care system and improving access at the community level by allowing smaller community mental health centers to bill Medicaid for their services if they meet certain criteria.

Close is a longtime advocate for improving mental health care services and is a founder of Bring Change 2 Mind, a group pushing to end discrimination against people with mental illness. She's joining a campaign to pass the legislation, which was drafted in the wake of last year's shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The bill would put in place standards for about 2,000 “federally qualified” community behavioral health centers, requiring them to provide such services as substance abuse treatment and 24-hour crisis care. In return, eligible facilities would be able to receive Medicaid reimbursement — a change intended to open the door to treatment for many more people and one that is estimated to cost about $1 billion over the next decade.

The proposal was attached last week to a larger piece of legislation that would revamp how the federal government reimburses doctors for services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. The proposed permanent solution to the so-called "Doc Fix" is expected to be debated next year once Congress returns from its holiday break. Supporters believe that adding the mental health legislation to the "Doc Fix" bill gives their proposal new momentum and may help it become the first significant legislative proposal to address mental health concerns since the wave of mass shootings in recent years.

The Stabenow/Blunt bill already has earned outsized attention from Hollywood stars. In February when they unveiled their proposal, the senators were joined by David O. Russell, the Academy Award-nominated director and screenwriter of “Silver Linings Playbook,” which stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as a mentally troubled couple. Russell said at the time that he had written the film for his bipolar 11-year-old son.

Correction: This item previously said the event was occurring Thursday; it is happening Wednesday.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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