November 23, 2021

Neguse Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Expand Access to Mental Health Care

Recognizing the shortage of mental health professionals, Neguse pushes to reform licensure

Washington, D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the Compacts, Access and Responsible Expansion (CARE) for Mental Health Professionals Act. The bill aims to reform medical licensure to expand interstate access to mental health resources. It would establish a grant program to incentivize interstate mental health provider networks, thereby expanding both the network of mental health professionals nationwide and the availability of caregivers to rural communities.

Recently, Colorado Children’s Hospital declared a “state of emergency” for youth mental health following a major increase in attempted suicides among kids. More than one-third of Coloradans who go without mental health care say they had trouble getting an appointment.

“Mental health care is vitally important, and millions of Americans are facing a crisis care shortage—we need to expand access to mental health resources,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “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. 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.”

“On behalf of Children's Hospital Colorado and the patients and families we serve, we're grateful to Congressman Joe Neguse for his work to improve access to mental health care for kids,” said Dr. David Brumbaugh, Chief Medical Officer at Children's Hospital Colorado. “The state of emergency for children's mental health requires action from elected officials at every level, and we appreciate Congressman Neguse advancing solutions that can strengthen our mental health workforce across state lines and help children access the care they need before they reach the point of crisis.”

“We need to envision a future in which we are removing barriers to quality mental health care, not creating more of them. The Counseling Compact allows highly qualified counselors and clients to connect across arbitrary state boundaries that should not factor into access to care,” said Dr. Lynn Linde, American Counseling Association Chief Knowledge and Learning Officer. “We proudly support Congressman Neguse's C.A.R.E. for Mental Health Act which will help states foster equitable, essential services for the 21st century through the compact.”

 “Workforce shortages of mental health professionals is a serious concern. Mental Health Colorado has seen the need for mental health services grow due to the covid crisis and the stress, trauma and isolation this has brought to many Americans,” said Moe Keller, Director of Advocacy at Mental Health Colorado. “This CARE ACT, which allows licenses for mental health professionals to be recognized in many states, will open the door for more providers to reach Americans in need.”

“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. “The 10 states with the highest rates of suicide are consistently all rural. Conversely, the 10 states with the lowest rates of suicide are all largely urban and have a much higher concentration of resources and care options. Living in a rural community is one of the biggest risk factors for suicide, mainly due the lack of behavioral healthcare available. 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.”

“Across the country, people are struggling with their mental health and need help, but many can’t find a provider. We commend Congressman Neguse for championing legislation that would help extend the mental health workforce and offer more options for people in need of treatment,” said Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The CARE for Mental Health Act would leverage existing telecommunications and information technology to connect patients with providers across the country. This legislation would incentivize states to reduce barriers to flexible licensure, allowing providers to more easily practice across multiple states and avoid duplicative registration processes. In doing so, it would open doors to care for the estimated 120 million Americans living in areas with a shortage of mental health professionals.

This legislation also stands to have a tremendous positive impact on the wellbeing of military families. For care providers whose spouses are transferred, a move to a new state can upend financial and familial stability. Congressman Neguse’s bill would afford military spouses the opportunity to continue working in their role without being subjected to uncertainties during a new licensing process. By providing state licensing boards with an incentive to participate in compacts, the CARE for Mental Health Act would help support the economic security of military families and ensure the success of our nation’s service members.

This is another in a series of actions taken by Congressman Neguse to address the mental health deficits in the U.S. He recently passed his bill, the Care for Our Firefighters Act, through the House as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Earlier this year, he successfully secured $1 million in federal funding to expand mental health service options for residents of his district through the construction of the Clear Creek County Collaborative Care Center. In 2019, Neguse fought for suicide prevention funding for states and college campuses, advocating for increases in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Administration’s budget to the House Appropriations Committee.