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Mental and behavioral health

Communicating priorities to Senate mental health policy leaders

APA submitted recommendations to Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) for federal policies and programs to expand access to mental health and substance use disorder programs. The senators have worked to advance mental health legislation in Congress, and asked stakeholders to share feedback on existing programs and new opportunities for expanding access to care.

Cite this
American Psychological Association. (2021, November 10). Communicating Priorities to Senate Mental Health Policy Leaders.

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Senators Bill Cassidy and Chris Murphy led work in their chamber leading to the enactment in 2016 of several mental health-related provisions within the 21st Century Cures Act. With many of the programs authorized under the 21st Century Cures Act nearing the end of their authorization period, members of Congress are beginning to consider updates to the legislation. As part of this process, Cassidy and Murphy jointly solicited input from stakeholder organizations on ways Congress should continue to support the provision of mental health and substance use disorder services moving forward.

In a letter responding to the senators’ request, APA shared recommendations in several key areas.

  • Funding should be expanded and prioritized to ensure broad access to crisis care management services, including under state Medicaid programs and the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program, including initiatives such as round-the-clock mobile crisis teams, and implementation of the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline;
  • Congress should broadly expand access to evidence-based integrated primary and behavioral health care programs, including the primary care behavioral health (PCBH) model, the collaborative care model (CoCM), and blended versions of these models, in order to improve outcomes for both patients with a mental disorder and for patients struggling with behavioral issues affecting their health and well-being;
  • A stronger mental and behavioral health workforce is desperately needed to close longstanding access gaps and address the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it critical that Congress invest in programs including the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP), the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) program, the Integrated Substance Use Disorder Training Program (ISTP), the Graduate Psychology Education program (GPE), and other student loan repayment assistance;
  • Improving enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) is essential to help the law achieve its promise, and should be aided through enactment of the Parity Implementation Assistance Act (S. 1962) to support states’ implementation of new enforcement authority granted at the beginning of this year, and of the Parity Enforcement Act of 2021 (H.R. 1364) to give the U.S. Department of Labor the authority to assess civil monetary penalties for violations of the law committed by health plans under its jurisdiction;
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated the already large unmet need for mental health treatment among children and youth, particularly for youth within marginalized populations, making it imperative that Congress reauthorize existing programs and expand access to school-based services, including through the enactment of the Mental Health Services for Students Act (S. 1841), the Comprehensive Mental Health in Schools Pilot Program Act (S. 2730), and the Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act (S. 1811).

APA will continue working with Murphy and Cassidy, as well as other House and Senate members, as legislation to reauthorize and expand upon the 21st Century Cures Act gains more attention.

For more information, contact Scott Barstow.