Emmer: Inpatient psychiatric hospitals should have access to federal mortgage assistance

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) joined a bipartisan contingent requesting that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluate a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program that doesn’t provide mortgage assistance to acute care hospitals focused on mental health care.  

“Mental health care is health care. Our current housing policies are outdated and have created a chronic shortage of psychiatric beds that too often abandons patients to the streets or traps them in a cycle of incarceration,” Rep. Emmer said in a Sept. 6 statement. “We already have the tools to bring care to patients in need. The time has come to remove arbitrary barriers to care.”

The congressman reiterated his stance in a Sept. 6 letter sent to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro that was also signed by his U.S. House Financial Services Committee colleagues, Ranking Member Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY).

Specifically, the lawmakers requested the GAO’s assistance in evaluating HUD’s administration of the Section 242 program under the National Housing Act to provide mortgage insurance to acute care hospitals. In creating the Section 242 program, Congress intended to limit HUD’s ability to offer mortgage insurance to such hospitals, which have a 50 percent patient-days restriction that remains in effect today, according to their letter.

Rep. Emmer on June 22 sponsored the Securing Facilities for Mental Health Services Act, H.R. 8179, which is cosponsored by Rep. Torres and would increase the number of psychiatric beds available to patients by eliminating Section 242 of the National Housing Act, the provision prohibiting inpatient psychiatric hospitals from applying for mortgage assistance. 

“It is time for HUD to take stock of systems that place unnecessary barriers on our most vulnerable citizens from receiving critical treatment,” said Rep. Torres. “We must take psychiatric care just as serious as health care, and begin to help those most in need.”

In their letter, the members asked the GAO to study the impact of allowing inpatient psychiatric hospitals to apply for mortgage assistance and requested that several questions be answered, such as how many eligible hospitals now participate in the Section 242 program and what the effects might be on the program if the 50 percent patient-days restriction was lifted, among others.