Mental health crisis services expanded under Fitzpatrick, Herrera Beutler bill

U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) recently introduced legislation to give communities tools to support the millions of Americans who struggle with mental health issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taxed the nation’s mental health services for those struggling with depression and anxiety, with one in five adults and one in six youth experiencing the effects of mental illness each year, Rep. Fitzpatrick’s office noted.

The lawmakers unveiled the bipartisan Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act, H.R. 5611, on Oct. 19 with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE). The legislation, if enacted, will provide the policies needed for communities to develop a variety of behavioral health crisis services with the goal of providing individuals with appropriate continuing treatment, according to a bill summary.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed disparities within the continuum of mental health services across the country,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said on Oct. 25. “It is past time we address our nation’s mental health crisis. That is why I am proud to support the Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act, which will provide communities with the necessary tools to expand access to behavioral health crisis services for those who need it most.”

Rep. Herrera Beutler said an adequate continuum of care is needed to treat the rising number of individuals with mental health challenges.

“I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan legislation to help meet this profound need and ensure communities are able to respond to behavioral health emergencies and provide folks in Southwest Washington access to the services they need,” the congresswoman said.
One supporter of the bill noted the importance of ensuring access to care, particularly because the crisis care system in the United States has been stymied by a lack of consistent funding.

“This important bill lays the groundwork for a comprehensive behavioral health crisis care continuum across the U.S. with the forthcoming implementation deadline in July 2022 for the “988” suicide prevention lifeline,” said David Covington, president and CEO of RI International, an organization that provides mental health and substance use crisis service design delivery and peer-delivered care.