A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would strengthen the nation’s mental health care system, and improve access in communities, according to The Washington Post. The bill, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, would require about 2,000 federally qualified community behavioral health centers to provide substance abuse treatment and 24-hour care.
Facilities that met federal criteria could bill Medicaid for their services, which would greatly expand access to treatment, at an estimated cost of $1 billion over the next 10 years, the article notes.
According to the advocacy group National Council for Behavioral Health, the bill will allow greater access to services and treatments needed by people with mental illnesses and addictions, to keep them healthy and safe in their communities.
“Behavioral health has long been left out of the federal dictionary,” Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, said in a news release. “As a result, mental health and addiction providers cannot receive the critical federal funds that support other safety net providers. They share the unique responsibilities of the safety-net — but none of the supports.”
She added, “Over the 30 years I’ve worked in behavioral health, I have heard an untold number of stories about real people who need care, but go without. I’ve seen ERs so mired down by the needs of people with mental illnesses and addictions that it interferes with their ability to serve their primary function. I’ve talked with family members who have knocked on every door and still don’t know where to get help for their loved ones. The Excellence in Mental Health Act would help right this wrong.”