Luján, Collins, Casey Introduce Bill to Ensure Access to Mental Health Resources During Public Health Emergencies

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Securing Uninterrupted Pandemic Preparation of Resources & Therapies (SUPPORT) Act to ensure the nation is prepared to address the behavioral health needs that follow natural and human-caused disasters and emergent events, including public health emergencies. Current efforts include partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to operate the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP), which provides community-based behavioral health outreach and psycho-educational services, as well as immediate crisis counseling via the Disaster Distress Helpline.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact every aspect of normal life,” said Senator Luján. “Isolation, social distancing, and closures have saved lives, but at the expense of the mental health of so many Americans. Despite the sharp rise in anxiety and depression reported countrywide, too few were able to access care. The September 2020 Census Bureau survey showed that about one third of those who reported a negative impact on their mental health also reported forgoing mental health treatment. This legislation will help equip the government to better meet the mental health needs of the American people in tumultuous times.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health challenges and substance use disorders across our communities,” said Senator Collins. “In Maine, nearly 30 percent of adults are reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, and drug overdose deaths have reached record levels. In reassessing what we have learned during COVID-19 about the secondary health effects of this pandemic, it is clear Congress must take steps now to ensure our country is better prepared to identify and respond to the behavioral health needs of all Americans in all times of need. This bipartisan legislation will strengthen the federal government’s mission to support continued access to mental health and substance use disorder services during future public health emergencies and other emergent events.”

“For nearly two years, COVID-19 has caused unprecedented stress for children and families who are adjusting to school and work disruptions or may be coping with the loss of a loved one from the virus. Congress must do everything we can to address the mental health challenges that Americans are facing and prepare for future pandemics. I co-sponsored this legislation to support a robust federal response to mental health needs during public health emergencies,” said Senator Casey.

The SUPPORT Act would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which plays a critical role in such preparation, to support continued access to treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders and to report on agency’s activities and partnerships in supporting services during public health emergencies. The bill would also direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to evaluate the programs and activities conducted by SAMSHA, its advisory committees, and awardees in their mission to continue treatment of mental health and substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Full text of the legislation is available HERE.



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