Bill from Rep. Joe Neguse would expand access to out-of-state mental health services
Bipartisan legislation from U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse could increase access to out-of-state mental health resources.
The Compacts, Access and Responsible Expansion (CARE) for Mental Health Professionals Act would reform medical licensure and establish a grant program to encourage interstate mental health provider networks. The goal of the legislation, cosponsored by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania), is to widen the national network of mental health providers and expand access to mental health resources in rural communities and elsewhere.
The act would expand access to mental health services by allowing mental health licenses to be recognized in multiple states. It would also create incentives for states to make mental health licensure more flexible so providers could practice in more than one state with fewer barriers.
An estimated 120 million Americans live in places with a shortage of mental health professionals, according to a news release from Neguse's office. In Colorado, more than one-third of people who don't have mental health care said they struggled to make an appointment, according to a report from Colorado Health Institute.
In May, Children's Hospital Colorado declared a state of emergency for youth mental health in light of a 90% demand increase for behavioral health treatment in the last two years. Children's Hospital Colorado leaders said at the time that the magnitude of the problem warranted expanded support from state and national government.
“Our response to the pandemic has helped us develop robust telehealth systems and has shown us that patients don’t have to be in the same geographic location as providers to receive quality care," Neguse said in a news release. "Our hope is that, with this bill, we can help rural, disconnected, and economically disadvantaged communities access the quality, affordable mental health care services everyone deserves.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need for mental health care right as the field experiences workforce shortages, said Moe Keller, Mental Health Colorado's director of advocacy, in the news release.
Shortages are especially problematic in rural areas, where residents face a higher risk of suicide.
“The CARE for Mental Health Act would not only help to meet the growing demand for behavioral health services nationwide, but it would also make more services available to residents in rural parts of the country who have a greater risk of dying by suicide,” said Scott Smith, executive director of Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Larimer County, in the news release. “... The CARE for Mental Health Act will not only provide increased access and options for mental healthcare to rural communities, but it will also reduce visits to overtaxed hospital emergency rooms for mental health crises.”
By: Jacy Marmaduke
Source: Fort Collins Coloradoan
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