Murkowski, Cassidy propose Guarding Mental Health Act

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on Feb. 10 introduced a bipartisan bill to support the mental health of members serving in the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

“We continue to hear members of our Coast Guard express concern over the outdated regulations currently in place with regard to mental and behavioral health,” said Sen. Murkowski. “It is incredibly worrisome that anyone would hesitate to seek needed treatment for fear of a blanket discharge policy.”

Sen. Murkowski sponsored the Guarding Mental Health Act, S. 3637, with original cosponsor Sen. Cassidy, who was joined by U.S. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

If enacted, the bill would mandate that the USCG establish behavioral health standards that allow members to seek treatment for mental health without automatically being processed for discharge, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers. Such action would align the USCG with U.S. Department of Defense standards for mental health treatment.

“By bringing the USCG’s policies up to speed with the other military branches and allowing reviews of cases on an individual basis, we’re creating a more supportive environment for people to seek out the help they deserve,” Sen. Murkowski said.

“Addressing potential mental health issues early benefits the Coast Guardsman and the Coast Guard,” added Sen. Cassidy. “Seeking help should not destroy a military career. Our bill makes sure members of the Coast Guard are treated with the same policies as the rest of the armed services.” 

Sen. Sullivan pointed out that USCG members face extreme stresses and dangers in their duties — from conducting search-and-rescue operations in severe storms, to combating transnational crime, to securing the nation’s maritime borders.

S. 3637 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.