National Mental Health Care Legislation Brought up in Congress

A bipartisan pair of U.S. senators, Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto and Texas Republican John Cornyn, are pushing for legislation to support local governments that are expanding their mental health-care emergency responses, which seeks to shift the responsibility away from the police. “The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the mental health challenges so many Americans are facing, and we need to act with urgency to protect vulnerable people experiencing behavioral health crises and provide them with the treatment and services they need to get healthy,” said Cortez Masto in an emailed statement.

The bill would provide funding to expand mental-health services, including to the uninsured. It would also create a nationwide set of standards for running crisis hotlines, urgent care facilities, residential centers and mobile units that respond to behavioral crises. The bill is modeled after the mental health program in Eugene, Oregon where only 1% of cases needed police as backup.

Funding under the federal bill would come through a block grant program for qualifying state, local and community programs that meet the national standards set out in the legislation. Last year, mental health programs received $3 billion in grants from the federal government. The amount requested for the this specific bill has not been clarified. The legislation would mark the first attempt to create a funding mechanism that would be paired with national standards for this kind of care. More of this story here.