December 20, 2018

Harris Introduces Legislative Package to Increase Access to Mental Health Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) introduced two bills, the Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act and the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act, to expand access to mental health services for millions of Americans experiencing mental illness, especially those in rural and medically underserved areas. Currently, more than 123 million Americans live in an area with a shortage of mental health professionals.

 

The Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act is the Senate companion to legislation introduced by Rep. DelBene (WA-01) and Rep. Reed (NY-23). The Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act is the Senate companion to legislation introduced by Rep. Katko (NY-24) and Rep. Napolitano (CA-32).

 

“Millions of Americans live with mental illness, yet far too few receive the treatment they need due to lack of access or stigma surrounding their struggles. Our country is facing a mental health crisis, and we must take bold steps to address it,” said Harris. “It is absolutely vital that we increase the number of mental health professionals working in underserved areas and expand the use of innovative treatment delivery techniques such as telemedicine.” 

 

The Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act would:

 

  • Allow Medicare beneficiaries to access certain mental health services through telemedicine regardless of where they live, as opposed to only geographic regions with provider shortages.
  • Allow Medicare beneficiaries to access these mental health services through telemedicine in their own home, as opposed to only at a qualified “originating site” such as a doctor’s office.

 

The Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act would:

 

  • Authorize a new loan repayment program for mental health professionals who agree to practice in an area with a shortage of mental health professionals.
  • Repay one-sixth of a professional’s educational debt for each year of service—up to $250,000 over six years.

 

Supporters of the Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Actinclude American Art Therapy Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Nurses Association, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, American Psychological Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, International OCD Foundation, Jewish Federations of North America, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Eating Disorders Association, National Register of Health Service Psychologists, Treatment Communities of America, and 2020 Mom.

 

Supporters of the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment include American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Counseling Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, Center for Clinical Social Work, Council on Social Work Education, International OCD Foundation,  National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), National Association for Rural Mental Health, National Association of Social Workers, Psychotherapy Action Network, The Kennedy Forum, The Trevor Project, and Treatment Communities of America. 


A full list of supporters can be found here

 

Text of the Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act can be found here.

 

Text of the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act can be found here

 

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