National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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Shelley Starkey

Sen. Cornyn Introduces Bill to Expand Resources for Mental Health Treatment

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This week, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) joined a group of his colleagues in the Senate to introduce the Restoring, Enhancing, Strengthening, and Promoting Our Nation’s Safety Efforts (RESPONSE) Act (S. 2690). Within this wide-ranging bill, there are provisions the National Council supports including increasing access to mental health treatment, such as promoting collaboration between the mental health and criminal justice systems and supporting school-based behavioral intervention teams. The National Council shares the Senators desire to increase access to mental health treatment and recovery.

Individuals living with serious mental illness face numerous barriers to receiving timely, effective, community-based treatment and supports, including the stigma that comes with many behavioral health diagnoses. Jails and prisons have become the de facto mental health treatment system in this country, largely due to under investment in community alternatives. The RESPONSE Act authorizes up to $10 million of existing funds in the Department of Justice for partnership between law enforcement and mental health providers to increase access to long-acting medically assisted treatment. Additionally, it requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and disseminate guidance for states to fund mental health programs and crisis intervention teams through Medicaid as well as to issue a report to Congress on best practices to expand the mental health workforce. These provisions aim to divert more individuals from incarceration and will create more opportunities for community-based treatment and recovery.

Behavioral health services in this country have been long underfunded, and National Council appreciates the awareness the RESPONSE Act will bring to funding these important initiatives. We look forward to working with Congress to increase access to behavioral health services in the nation and hope this bill will generate the momentum to make this happen.