Hollywood director David O. Russell joined a bipartisan group of senators and mental health professionals on Thursday to introduce legislation to improve and expand national mental health services in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. Russell wrote and directed "Silver Linings Playbook," a film centered on a protagonist struggling with bipolar disorder.
The bill, called the Excellence in Mental Health Act, would establish standards for Federally Qualified Community Behavioral Health Centers, requiring them to provide comprehensive services to individuals and families grappling with mental health problems. Additionally, it would expand access to services through the construction of new Community Mental Health Centers. These centers currently provide mental health services to roughly 8 million people, including 2.2 million young people. The expansion of these centers would provide additional treatment for up to 1.5 million people, the legislation's proponents said.
"Through recent acts of violence, we have seen the tragic cost that can come from untreated mental illnesses," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a statement. "The Excellence in Mental Health Act will save lives by addressing violence at its source and will ease the struggles of countless individuals and families dealing with mental illness.”
Russell has said his son's struggle with mood disorders inspired him to write "Silver Linings Playbook", which has been nominated for eight Academy Awards.
"When your son is 11 and he has a mood disorder and he tells you that he's not so happy about this business called living, you would do anything for that child to turn it around," he said at the announcement of the bill on Thursday.
The legislation is a part of a broader, ongoing effort in Congress to address the issue of gun control. Legislators on both sides of the aisle agree that improving access to high-quality mental health care is a necessary part of any reform.
Joining Sens. Stabenow and Rubio in sponsoring the bill are Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).